For the past three years, the Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS) has conducted the Climate of Art (COA) program, winner of a 2019 National Association of Counties (NACo) Award and the 2020 Urban Libraries Council’s Top Innovator Award. This program, created by the staff at the YOUmake Miami makerspace at the West Kendall Regional Library, highlights the role of libraries as cultural institutions, whose value extends beyond their walls and into the community. COA program provides patrons with information about climate change, encouraging them to become advocates for the preservation of the earth’s natural resources through the creation of works of art. The COA is an all-ages, family-friendly program.

Each year over the course of several months, library patrons attend art classes and participate in educational workshops led by environmental advocates. These COA workshops inspire attendees to create artwork that highlights nature, the environment, the need for community responsiveness and reflects the impact of human populations on the Earth. The elaborate works of art created by participants are then curated and exhibited as part of a two-day COA Exhibit that takes place during the spring

The COA program offers Miami-Dade County residents the opportunity to attend art classes and learn how to use and incorporate technology such as digital cameras and editing software as expressive tools with their unique works of art. While learning about climate change and ways to mitigate it, artists show attendees how to express themselves through art using a variety of mediums such as drawing, painting and papier-mache. They also learned how to manipulate recycled plastics, cardboards, metals and wood with glue and heat guns to create delightful mixed-media art installations.

At a deeper level, the COA program connects the Library to its community by using art in tandem with activism. Program participants are passionate about their community and the COA is a positive and meaningful program to help bring awareness to community concerns. Moreover, the COA program offers participants an opportunity to engage in conversations with like-minded individuals in their community on important topics.

Over the course of three months, children, teens and adults learn advanced art techniques, participate in climate change workshops, and produce a major art exhibit with the goal of bringing awareness to our precious environment. The workshops presented by artists and organizations specializing in ecological preservation and climate change represent an important aspect of the program. These presenters include individuals and organizations such as The CLEO Institute, the Climate Crusader, The Environmental Band, Sarah the Eco-Artist, and Nature’s Natives, to name just a few. The COA program has connected the Library with new community partners and strengthened the relationships with existing ones.

Through their workshops, The CLEO Institute educated the public about sea level rise and the role that people can play in mitigating negative environmental impacts. During the May 2019 COA Exhibit, Sarah the Eco Artist offered a live painting demonstration as her contribution to the event. The Climate Crusader helped families plant seedlings in recycled bottles, and Nature’s Natives conducted fun activities that taught young people about earth’s natural resources.

Teen participants play a key role in the planning of the COA Exhibit. Early in the program, they are invited to form a steering committee for the planning of the COA Exhibit and related events. They work as a team to curate the artwork that will form part of the Exhibit. Some of the special events have included a fashion catwalk featuring an upcycled dress, photo walks to capture scenes of trash and litter as well as birds and nature, and a special showing of short films that bring awareness to the importance of environmental stewardship that were recorded, edited and produced by teens using iMovie and Adobe Premiere Pro software.

Each year, hundreds of Library customers take part in the many workshops, activities, and exhibits that comprise the COA program. The upcoming COA will take place virtually, with workshops offered online. The COA Exhibit will similarly transition to a virtual format. The virtual format brings with it new opportunities for the COA to expand and reach a greater audience as they will be able to join remotely to participate in the work and network to bring public awareness to climate change.

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