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Students and faculty tackle climate change with art


“Hope is hard.”

So will read the new linen banners in the Honors College, which depict silhouettes of students with found poems.

To showcase community response to climate change at the University of New Mexico, two professors in the Honors College selected two students to work collectively on a cyanogram art display. They designed the banners and wrote the poems based on responses to a survey where students could submit their thoughts, hopes and fears surrounding the climate crisis.

The project began after professors Amaris Ketcham and Megan Jacobs received money from a grant from the Honors Research Institute and wanted to create an art display that tackled climate change through both visual and written work. They selected two students — sophomore Victoria Nisoli and senior Ethan Ward — to participate.

“(We wanted to) showcase UNM students and have them be integrated into the landscape,” Nisoli said. “So we have satellite images of the Rio Grande, and then also pictures we took of the landscape that we all integrated into one image. It's important to also emphasize the people — the students within the crisis — since we're using their words.”

The banners were supposed to be displayed in Smith Plaza in front of Zimmerman Library. However, Ketcham said, due to high installation costs and concern from different departments surrounding the content of the work, they will be displayed at the Honors College.

The poems featured in the piece were written by Nisoli, Jacobs, Ketcham and Ward. Ward said the collaboration on the poems came about organically as they read through the survey submissions.

“The two poems have different tones. One is more negative going into hopeful and one is hopeful leading into some of the despair and worry of the climate crisis,” Ward said. “Having those figures facing each other and sharing that dialogue and knowing that it is repurposed words from students, it feels like a cool, artful way to represent the University and (students’) collective fears and worries.”

The project hopes to reframe the conversation around climate change to center the lived experiences of people in New Mexico, Nisoli said.

“Reframing it in an artistic way and showing your true sentiments about the climate crisis from people on campus is super important to change this way that we're approaching climate change … (by looking at) how it affects us here as New Mexico citizens, as people on UNM campus,” Nisoli said.

Evidence of climate change can be felt personally in the Southwest, according to Nisoli, who lived in an area impacted by the forest fires last summer.

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“New Mexico is greatly affected by the climate crisis,” Nisoli said. “A very eye-opening moment, for me, were the wildfires that we had last summer. Pretty serious stuff, especially where I live. Lots of people's homes were at risk of being burnt down. And it's just something that you're often presented with.”

Concern over the scarcity of water was also a theme of the project, with deep blues being used, representative of another aspect of climate change felt in New Mexico, according to Ketcham and Ward.

“The disappearing water is something that's really obvious and kind of felt in day-to-day life in ways that maybe other people don't notice,” Ward said. “And so I think that maybe there's a more immediate desperation and an immediate outcry that can be found in the Southwest.”

Maddie Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at or on Twitter @maddogpukite

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