New Detroit art exhibit addresses climate crisis with hope


Interwoven Ecologies is a multimedia collage by Leslie Sobel. Image: Jennifer Patselas.

By Gabrielle Ahlborn

With art ranging from giant mobiles to miniature paintings, artists from across the country are collaborating to face the climate crisis with a new exhibit in metro Detroit.

Environmentally Speaking is a three-part exhibition that aims to remove the despair from climate conversations and ask us to consider the legacy we want to leave. It opens Sunday in Janice Charach Gallery Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, and runs until March 3.

The project includes a gallery of visual pieces in a variety of mediums, a live dance performance and community engagement pieces that invite the public to participate in writing letters to the Earth.

“This show is based in hope, in love and in resilience,” co-curator Leslie Sobel said. “This is not a show saying the world is doomed and you should just crawl under your bed and hide. It’s a show about positivity and how the solutions for these issues are rooted in hope and action.”

Environmentally Speaking was inspired by the artists’ experiences and the book “All We Can Save” by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson.

The Greenhouse Gasses mobile was created by Laura Earle. Image: Jennifer Patselas.

“I held my first grandson, and immediately I was like, we have got to do better,” co-curator Laura Earle said.

Earle, a metro Detroit-based artist, was led to climate advocacy through her previous work that addressed social inequality.

“I encountered some of the food deserts that we have here in Detroit, and I realized immediately that there’s a huge overlap between social justice issues and environmental issues,” she said.

Many of the 14 self-selected artists are a part of Earle and Sobel’s book club of eco-feminists.

“We started meeting weekly, reading a chapter of “All We Can Save” and discussing it and in that process, we looked at each other and said this is a show,” Sobel said.

The curators invited any interested artists to showcase their work.

“It’s like a contemporary version of a Parisian salon where anybody who’s interested can be in that space and have those conversations and then you can see the influence of those conversations on the work,” Earle said.

The Solar Cell painting is by Tracey Easthope. Image: Tracey Easthope.

Tracey Easthope, a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is one of the creators included in the exhibition. Her paintings focus on celebrating climate solutions with the goal of bringing joy to the future.

“I started drawing these costumes and I imagined people wearing them in parades with music and bands and having fun talking about all the solutions that we already know are out there,” she said.

The exhibition encourages people of all ages to attend and engage in conversations about positive impacts on the climate.

“The idea was to invite people to be part of this celebration of transforming the world,” Easthope said.

Environmentally Speaking opens Sunday at the Janice Charach Gallery Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The exhibition is free and open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and closes March 3. The Tu B’shvat Seder dance performance is 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday and costs $18 a ticket.

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