Visualizing Hope: Investigating the Effect of Public Art on Perceptions of Climate Change

Aragon Team Photo

From left: Carolina Aragon (Landscape Architecture), Ezra Markowitz (Environmental Conservation), Trisha Andrew (Chemistry), and Elisabeth Hamin (Landscape Architecture)

When art meets science, the story of climate change finds a new canvas. The FutureSHORELINE project, an innovative blend of public art and social research, explores the impact of art on public perceptions and engagement with climate change. Co-funded by IDS, this project demonstrated the effectiveness of public art in enhancing public engagement with climate science, and won a prestigious international award for climate change communication.

Shoreline Art Installation As rising sea levels pose a significant threat to coastal communities, climate change is literally reshaping our world. Prior research has validated the feelings that many of us know all too
personally: that to call this painful and frightening issue “difficult to grapple with” would be quite the understatement. For some, this can be enough to shut off from the issue completely, despite the urgent need for public participation in climate adaptation and resilience.

But in the award-winning FutureSHORELINE project, and IDS-funded team may have found a way to keep us engaged: by combining climate science with public art. 

At the heart of the project addresses is a public art installation that vividly illustrates the potential impacts of climate change on the Fort Point Channel area in Boston. Bridging material science with landscape art, this dynamic art piece not only provides a tangible representation of climate change impacts but also serves as a focal point for the team’s research.

The team wanted to explore how exposure to the art installation could influence public perceptions and engagement with climate change adaptation. Indeed, they found that exposure to the art piece elicited strong emotional responses, and made viewers more likely to attend community meetings about climate adaptation.

The success of the FutureSHORELINE project underscores the power of public art to foster a deeper understanding of complex issues like climate change. Furthermore, the project provides valuable research experience for students, broadening their own understanding of how interdisciplinary STEM research can enhance public engagement and drive meaningful action in response to environmental challenges.