Climate Change in Higher Art Education

26.04.2017 |

During the Creative Climate Leadership (CCL) course at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales, we talked to five participants. Read below what Sigrid Pawelke, living and working in Aix-En-Provence, thinks about the course and what she'll do right after coming home.

Hello, my name is Sigrid Pawelke, I’m a German living in the south of France. I’m a professor in art history, a performer and a curator.

What were your expectations about the course before you got here?

I was hoping to find precise insights and scientific facts about climate change and the real impact of it on the individual throughout the world. I wanted to get a deep understanding of the subject in itself and then learn about the possible actions on an individual and collective level and how to integrate that in a cultural and art’s agenda. The issue of how to design and prepare the field you’re working in better, so that art productions and creation can be enabled to develop into that direction was really central for me.

Meet Sigrid Pawelke, curator and performer. Click on the picture for a better resolution of the profile. 

Before coming here, have you dealt with the issues of climate change in your work?

Yes, I have. For once, I’ve worked with it in the sector of Higher Art Education and how to address Climate Change in the educational agenda, so that future artists could have the chance to encounter this subject in both a practical and theoretical way. For instance, looking back into the art history of the 19th and 20th century, there is so much relating to art and nature, such as the discourse during romanticism on to today’s sustainable development. The discourse in the 19th century by Henry David Thoreau, Buckminster Fuller up to Bruno Latour can provide the students with a consistent and a historic framework, within which the topic has always been addressed.

But also on the practical side, offering real workshops dealing with climate change. I’m for example working with a Dutch artist on a soundwalk on climate change. Workshops taking place in places such as this small village in St. Victoire, where we go with researchers, artists and art students. Giving input on various levels for future artists and conferences is really essential here.

So, if I understand correctly, in your work you really address the topic of climate change?

Yes, that’s one thing related to art education. But on the other hand, it’s also relevant for me concerning public art commissions. You can ask the question: What are the people’s needs for the environment they live in?  Then bringing in an artist, that offers an artistic ‘solution’ based on the respective ecological needs or challenges allows art to become the vector for understanding the whole problem.

The course is about to end now: What will you take along from here?

First of all, being connected, seeing that this case is dealt with in a lot of courageous ways. And being part of a global network for a global cause. When you’re alone in a context where nobody cares, it gets really difficult. Secondly learning from one another can be so inspirational. Maybe the network even helps creating collaborations.

Future artists should have the chance to encounter nature both in a theoretical as well as in a practical way, such as in the mountains of St. Victoire in France.

So, what’s coming up next? Do you already have plans that build up on this course?

The main thing is, that I want to organize a workshop that passes on the essence of the week we had here already in the next month or so. And then enable a network of local players and share the experience. It would be a great way of forming a growing informal network. I think that’s the most important thing, that I want to do.

We’re living in a very digital world. Do you think that this course could be replaced by digital means or is the physical aspect of meeting people and having time together essential?

I think it’s essential, yes. I’m coming from performance and I also do body work. I think people who want to work with the environment have to get into their body again and connect their body to the environment. Therefore, it’s crucial to say, if you have the human connection, even the bodily-human connection, there’s so much more power to it. Afterwards you can build up on it digitally.

Thank you so much!

Click here to read on about the Anna-Kaisa Koski, curator and activist for a coal-free Finland. Click here to go back to the main page about the first CCL course.

The next Creative Climate Leadership training course will take place in Slovenia in October 2017, facilitated by Julie’s Bicycle and PiNA. Applications will open soon. To register your interest, sign up to our newsletter at

In the CCL partner consortium, ARS BALTICA represents the Baltic Sea Region and considers it extremely worthwhile to be part of this international project highlighting what the cultural sector can do to fight climate change. Staying up-to-date with international trends and being a part of such a network helps us to bring even more substance to the fight for more sustainability and against climate change, that several cultural players from the BSR have already begun.

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"Culture includes not only culture and arts, but also the way of life and system of values. In this sense culture becomes the major power for intellectual renewal and human perfection." (European Council Report on European Cultural Policy)