‘New Climate Stories’ wins Awesome Kingston March grant

The tent in Skeleton Park where many of the creative works took place during New Climate Stories’ 2022 Earth Day Celebration. Photo via New Climate Stories.

Every month, Awesome Kingston awards a $1,000 grant to a local project that the trustees think will keep Kingston awesome. Last week, the March grant was awarded to New Climate Stories for their upcoming Earth Day celebration.

This free, arts-oriented celebration will take place in Skeleton Park in April. New Climate Stories said that they want to provide the all-ages Kingston community with a space to come together on Earth Day and reflect on the climate crisis through creative practices.

New Climate Stories is a self-proclaimed hub for climate change-related creativity and art. The group operates both online and in-person: their website acts as an art collective, to which Kingstonians can submit creative works that reflect on the climate crisis; while their team – made up of artists – hosts events in the community to encourage creative climate action and deeper engagement with the climate movement. 

“Our group was formed in late 2021 in response to the urgency of the climate crisis,” Hannah Ascough, artist with New Climate Stories told Kingstonist. “Climate change communication is often beset by apocryphal imagery and gloom-and-doom narratives, which can discourage participation in climate activism. As artists, we saw rich potential in merging creativity with climate action, conceiving of art as a way of processing the immense losses experienced under the climate crisis, but also as a means of imagining radically hopeful visions of the world we want to build instead.”

Last year, the group held their inaugural Earth Day celebration in Skeleton Park on April 22, and have earmarked that date for their 2023 celebrations.

“We initially envisioned New Climate Stories as a platform wherein local Kingstonians could share their artwork. It quickly became apparent to us that we needed to engage in outreach, as well. We saw Earth Day as an opportunity to bring the community together to reflect on the climate crisis, process their climate anxiety, and engage – through art – in more direct climate action.”

Last year, organizers were “very surprised” by the success of New Climate Stories’ first Earth Day event. The group set up a tent in Skeleton Park, with a sunflower kit station, old t-shirts for decorating, and poster-making activities. Ascough noted that they were “very fortunate” to partner with Yessica Rivera Belsham, from Ollin.ca, who invited people into a drum circle.

“We found ourselves surrounded by dozens of children and families from the area: our t-shirts were decorated quickly, and many youth walked home with sunflower pots and climate posters; we also covered the sidewalk in chalk messages about climate change.”

One of the many wonderful creative pieces to emerge from the youth who participated in New Climate Stories’ 2022 Earth Day Celebration. Photo via New Climate Stories.

She described the atmosphere as exuberant. “Children were running around, covered in fabric paint, and the joy was palpable. While we had not expected such a large turnout, we were thrilled by the laughter, and were reminded very poignantly of the power of imagination and art to bring people together and draw attention to a movement.”

The group hopes to bring that same joy and exuberance to their second annual event, while continuing to reflect on the climate crisis.

“We are cognizant that the climate crisis is political – and its impacts both environmental and social – and that days like Earth Day (when depoliticized) can distract us from its pressing urgency. We conceive of our Earth Day event not only as a celebration of our planet and all its inhabitants, but also as a call to action – a welcoming space wherein people can engage more thoroughly, and creatively, in the broader climate movement, and thus become more involved in all facets of the struggle against climate change.”

Currently, New Climate Stories is running two contests for youth: elementary school-aged youth were asked to design a “climate-themed button,” and high school-aged youth were challenged to create a poster, which imagines what a “fossil-free Kingston” could look like.

Prizes will be awarded to the winners of these contests, and the group has extended the deadline and is encouraging youth to continue to enter the contest, which will be closing soon.

“In keeping with our contests, we will have several ‘stations’ at our Earth Day event, with various creative activities that call for climate action,” Ascough explained. “At one station, we will have button-makers, so that everyone can design and create a ‘climate’ button. At another station, we will be planting sunflowers in take-home pots, to encourage people to think about starting pollinator gardens. Our third station will involve decorating old t-shirts – which we are encouraging people to bring with them – with climate-related slogans; while a fourth station will have musical instruments. Our final station will have two large banners made from old sheets, where everyone can share their environmental messages, and which we will take to other climate protests as a show of the community’s support for the climate movement.”

Everyone is welcome to attend the day of creativity, which will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Apr. 22 in McBurney (Skeleton) Park.

Ascough added that the Kingston Frontenac Public Library will be joining them at their event this year.

“Not only have they generously loaned us their button-makers, but they will also have a pop-up library set up with all-ages climate- and environment-focused books,” she said.

New Climate Stories also gave thanks to Awesome Kingston for this grant, and said they will use the money to replenish their art supplies, including fabric paints, button supplies, old sheets to make banners, and seeds and pots for the pollinator garden start-up kits.

“We want to grow our Earth Day celebration every year, and Awesome’s grant has helped us ensure its longevity in the community. Without their support, our event would look a lot different,” Ascough noted. “We are extremely grateful for the work that Awesome Kingston does to encourage local organizing, and appreciate their commitment to growing Kingston’s communities. We are also very grateful to the Kingston Frontenac Public Library for their loan of button-makers and books; their support is a reminder that climate action comes in all forms. Finally, we want to acknowledge that this celebration is happening on the traditional territories of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Anishinabek Nation. As such, we encourage anyone who attends our Earth Day to critically reflect on the ongoing and interlinked violence of colonialism and climate change.”

“Ultimately, we want our Earth Day celebration to serve as a reminder that joy, fun, and laughter can act as powerful forms of resistance to political inaction and social and environmental injustices,” she concluded. “In the climate movement, there is hope, and at New Climate Stories, we want to encourage everyone to merge their creativity with climate action to imagine and then enact better, fairer futures.”

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