In ‘Imagine Climate,’ artists get creative

Catherine Lutz
Special to The Aspen Times
Artist Kelly Peters, left, holds her billboard as Chris Erickson stabilizes the other side during installation outside of The Collective in Snowmass for CORE’s 2nd annual Imagine Climate project on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020. The piece was made using AIRink from Graviky Labs. The ink in the special pens is made from raw tailpipe carbon soot.


WHAT: ‘Imagine Climate’ and Climate Billboard Project kick-off community parties

WHEN: Feb. 25 & Feb. 26, 6-7:30 p.m.; events and exhibits through March 18

WHERE: The Launchpad, Carbondale (Feb. 25); The Collective, Snowmass Village (Feb. 26)




March 9: ‘Inner Climate/Outer Climate: wellness in the age of eco-anxiety,’ Basalt Regional Library, 6 p.m.

March 12: ‘Building Resiliency in the Roaring Fork Valley,’ Pitkin County Library, 6 p.m.

March 13: ‘Tales of Water’ exhibition opening, Skye Gallery, 6 p.m.

March 18: DJ Spooky, ‘Arctic Rhythms,’ Aspen Center for Physics, 6 p.m.

When art and technology converge in the quest for climate change solutions, the conversation expands and potential for action increases. At least that’s what the partners in “Imagine Climate” want to demonstrate.

The Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) kicks off its second annual month-long exploration of climate art and innovation Tuesday and Wednesday, with back-to-back launch parties. They’ll unveil this year’s centerpiece of “Imagine Climate,” the “Climate Billboard Project,” an innovative public art collaboration with valley artists and Boston-based tech start-up Graviky Labs. Artists were commissioned to create 8-foot-square billboards using Graviky’s AIR-INK, a rich black ink converted from the soot of tailpipe emissions.

“This art is made from carbon emissions” is printed on each of the four artists’ billboards, on display for the month at locations valleywide: Kate Howe at Aspen Art Museum, Chris Erickson at Basalt Lions Park stage, Brian Colley at The Launchpad in Carbondale and Kelly Peters at The Collective in Snowmass Village.

“Sequestering carbon through art is the ultimate upcycling,” said Lara Whitley, CORE’s brand and creative strategy director, who said she was thrilled to find the ideal partner in Graviky Labs and its founder, Anirudh Sharma.

For his part, Sharma did not hesitate when asked to collaborate with CORE on “Imagine Climate.” Large-scale street art, product labels and even credit card print made with AIR-INK has reached millions of people in Hong Kong, India, Singapore and Germany. “Imagine Climate” is its first project in the U.S., the world leader in historic carbon emissions. Sharma is coming to the valley to speak at both Climate Billboard launch events.

AIR-INK started as a way “to treat carbon as a waste management problem,” said Sharma, who was motivated by the health issues caused by air pollution in his native India and incubated the project while studying at MIT’s Media Lab.

It took off through artists.

“Art crosses cultural boundaries; it was art that spread the message,” said Sharma, who has built a global network of AIR-INK users in just a few short years. “I’ve been doing this a long time as a researcher, but we also have the political side and this is a powerful way to bring people together.”

That fits neatly with the mission of CORE, a nonprofit that helps Roaring Fork Valley residents and businesses save energy and cut carbon emissions — often through creative solutions and collaboration — and its goal with “Imagine Climate” of catalyzing new climate conversations and actions. During the inaugural “Imagine Climate” last winter, Whitley found, CORE staff were having deeper, more engaged conversations with more people than they usually do at the standard events where they set up tables and hand out brochures.

“We’re trying to bring solutions and hope in addition to inspiring action,” Whitley said. “And we’re bringing more people into the conversation.”

At “engagement stations” at “Imagine Climate” 2019, CORE collected 81 postcards from participants who pledged to take 115 actions related to energy efficiency or renewable energy. If they followed through, that amounts to 261 metric tons of avoided carbon emissions.

This year’s “Imagine Climate” increases the programming — adding music, literature and a mental health conversation — and thus ups the engagement goals to 300 conversations, 200 pledges and offsetting 370 metric tons of carbon.

“Art is uniquely equipped to open us up to new possibilities; we’re able to imagine solutions for big problems,” Whitley said. “The arts have a way of harnessing emotions in a way science cannot, and when you put the two together, watch out.”

For Carbondale-based artist Chris Erickson, being asked by The Art Base to work on the “Climate Billboard Project” was serendipitous. His previous work in his “molecules” series couldn’t be more well-suited for “Imagine Climate.” The series addresses the implications of industrialization and climate change, attributing human qualities to molecules and depicting the consequences we’ve chosen in a lighthearted manner.

Now, with his artwork displayed on an 8-foot-by-8-foot billboard in ink created from captured carbon, “it’s bringing awareness to the crisis on our hands with our carbon emissions, but more instructively it’s shedding light on how there are in fact solutions and different ways of tackling the crisis,” Erickson said. “(Climate change) can feel overwhelming and daunting, but there’s some brilliant minds working on this. We’re pretty ingenious creatures.”