Five works of locally created art were submitted Friday as a form of public comment to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, urging her to take action on climate change.
The works were created as part of a project by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council to engage members of the public during a time when in-person gatherings are being discouraged. SEACC recruited Alaskan artists to host Zoom workshops as part of series they called Hunker Down for Climate Change.
“The whole point of this was to have a creative and constructive dialogue, not just with the senator but in our communities and between the artists who led these workshops and community members,” said Matthew Jackson, climate organizer for SEACC. “This whole process has been about having an artistic dialogue about what climate change means and thinking about how we want to live differently and be creative moving forward.”
All five works were two-dimensional and in wooden picture frames, but there were different art forms in different workshops.
Sitka-based artist Ellie Schmidt chose zines as the medium for her workshop. Zines, short for magazine, are small, often self-published magazines usually written and produced by nonprofessionals, Schmidt said.
“We used materials around the house, which was fun,” Schmidt said Friday in an interview with the Empire. “We combined drawings and images of the natural world and we wrote words to someone important in our life. It was meant to be sort of a mash-up of interpersonal words and the natural environment.”
Schmidt’s zine submitted to Murkowski’s office featured a photograph of two drops of water, side by side, each with its own caption.
SEACC’s own Inside Passage Waters Program Manager Sarah Davidson contributed a piece, a landscape with the words, “it’s up to us.”
“I was trying to visually represent the power and responsibility,” she said, “but also the hope and possibilities of dealing with climate change.”
The works were submitted as public comment, Jackson said, something which Murkowski’s office had never received.
“They thought we were trying to give them gifts,” he said.
Alaska’s Senate delegation regional spokesperson Dana Herndon met with SEACC representatives at Mayor Bill Overstreet Park just before noon Friday. Because works of art can have monetary value, Murkowski’s office can only keep the pieces for 90 days before returning them, Herndon said.
“It’s a unique thing,” Jackson said. “Art has a unique potential to foster those kinds of grand dialogues.”
But SEACC and Murkowski haven’t always been on the same side, particularly when it comes to the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest. SEACC held numerous demonstrations to protest changes to the Roadless Rule while Murkowski has worked with the Trump administration to lift the regulation.
But Jackson said SEACC still feels Murkowski is approachable on environmental issues.
“Murkowski has not always been on our side, that’s no secret. I don’t think she’s always been on the side of environmentalists,” Jackson said. “But that’s OK because she is a leader that we can still have constructive dialogue with, and I think she does stand out as someone amongst the whole Senate who’s capable of doing that.”
Asked about her environmental record and commitment to climate change, Murkowski’s communications director Karina Borger said in an email the senator is a champion of energy efficiency.
“Senator Murkowski is a national leader on wind, solar, hydropower, marine, geothermal and other forms of renewable energy,” Borger said. “Through her role on the Appropriations Committee, she has worked to secure funding to assist communities facing the detrimental impacts of climate change and to advance research on the impacts of ocean acidification.”
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.