FLASH FLOOD was a collaborative aerial art action I coordinated as a volunteer for the Santa Fe Art Institute. It was one of a number of aerial artworks that was created around the world on the same day as part of a global climate change art show 350.org organized in advance of a major climate summit that took place in 2010 in Cancun. All of the actions were photographed on the same day by satellite.

Santa Fe’s action was unique in that it was collaboratively created and driven by an organizing committee of dozens of people and institutional partners, and the action itself was a massive community event. In the months leading up to FLASH FLOOD, we engaged the public through a variety of workshops, programs, and even a fine art show. We worked with city officials and numerous organizations to ensure that the event was safe, smooth, and successful.

On November 20, 2010, hundreds of people of all ages came together in the dry Santa Fe river bed to make a statement about climate change. As I write this 10 years later, it’s worth noting that in 2020 we experienced one of the worst droughts in recent history, and the water seldom flows to the point in the river we stood in on that cold day.

When so much of climate discourse is abstract and apocalyptic, big and horrifying to the point of petrified disempowerment, I think we need strategies, tools, and stories to help us feel and see the reality of what we are facing, to come together, and act. FLASH FLOOD was one of the few community-engaged artworks on this topic I have experienced that truly fired on all cylinders to engage the public in reflection and action about climate change.

It obviously wasn’t enough, though. The sustained community engagement and deep partnerships were extraordinary, but we need to do more to reimagine what is possible, and avert disaster. How can we create better worlds? How can we avoid a climate apocalypse? What sorts of changes need to occur in our societies? Does creative community engagement have a role in this?

Send me a message if you have thoughts.

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