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The Climate Crisis and the Performing Arts Field

The annual APAP Conference, hosted in New York City annually and virtually this year, is a place for performing arts industry leaders, creators, and artists to convene and connect. Discussions and panels are part of APAP’s annual programming, and this year I was fortunate to attend many. While the issues pressing our field are far and wide, I would like to center one that is truly far-reaching in scope and which affects our future in ways we cannot yet imagine. Calling for Radical Change: A Fieldwide Conversation: The Climate Crisis, Performing Arts Touring, and our Future was a discussion hosted through APAP on Monday, January 11th, 2021. The discussion was framed around a set of questions: How can we as a field address the impending climate crisis while we still have time to do so? What have we learned during this time and how can we build on it? Reimagining a future for the performing arts field is imperative. The discussion involved multiple panelists who outlined some key themes and ideas surrounding the climate crisis conversation in the performing arts field. Here is a short recap of what they had to offer!

We must acknowledge that we are in a state of climate crisis

Climate change is a phrase of the past; we have reached the point of crisis. Mobilizing is more important than ever.

We must call on our networks

The performing arts field thrives on connection and community. If we can harness the strength of our collective power, we can mobilize change.

We must look for leadership in unlikely places

We may think of our leaders as those who run the systems that surround us, but leadership takes different forms in all aspects of our lives. How can we recognize alternative leadership and use it as a source to inspire change?

We must reimagine the future

A point that many panelists made is the tremendous climate impact and financial undertaking that is involved in the business of touring. Perhaps we need to rethink the impacts that touring has and question its role in our performance models. Panelists suggested moving to more responsible and conservative methods and schedules of touring in order to preserve both global cultural sharing and our planet.

We must call on the resources that are developing

The COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone into the digital age. Every company now has tools, strategies, and funding behind digital programming and connectivity. Utilizing these tools could provide companies and artists with a way to respond to the climate crisis in ways that are both sustainable for logistics and the environment.

We must think globally and locally

We are more connected than ever before, and the importance of maintaining global dialogue, connection, and sharing is undeniable. However, local efforts and communities are our foundation. Reconnecting to those closest to us allows us to instill cultural change faster while being more responsible and accountable with our resources.

We must have collective accountability and community

No efforts can be done alone, and the performing arts field must collectively decide to prioritize the climate crisis. Accountability must be built into our cultural habits as a field if change is to be consistent.

The climate crisis is one of the most pressing issues facing our world today, and has far reaching effects. It is undeniable that those affected most by the climate crisis are often those least at fault, and those with the least resources to enact change. This along with many other reasons are why we must hold ourselves responsible, engage in conversation, and create tangible action to move us forward into climate sustainability and rehabilitation of our planet. Below is a link to the APAP panel discussion surrounding climate change, as well as a link to Julie’s Bicycle, an arts organization which provides creatives with resources to learn about the climate crisis and enact change.

Leave a comment with your thoughts around sustainability in the performing arts field!

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hannah stewart
hannah stewart
Jan 28, 2023

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