WWU faculty, alums collaborate on new display at the Museum of Northwest Art

Art and science collide in exhibit meant to center the discussion on resilience and climate change

A room filled with birdsong and paintings of endangered or threatened Pacific Northwest birds; an interactive multimedia installation featuring data-sonification of a forest; a delicate graphite drawing of a flooded future coastline; larger-than-life photographs of new life growing out of the remnants of forest fire. These are just a few of the artist-scientist collaborations on display in the Museum of Northwest Art’s (MoNA) Surge: Mapping Transition, Displacement, and Agency in Times of Climate Change that tell the story of climate change and resilience. 

Now in its fourth iteration, the exhibit is a partnership between the La Conner museum and the Skagit Climate Science Consortium. It began as a one-day event in 2015 and has grown into a year-long collaboration. Curator Chloe Dye Sherpe invited artists and scientists -- including Environmental Science’s Andy Bunn and John Rybczyk, Fairhaven’s John Bower, Geology’s Bob Mitchell, and the College of Fine and Performing Arts’ Sasha Petrenko, Cara Jaye, and recent studio art graduate Tesla Kawakami – to work together to create artwork that draws attention to the effects of climate change on local coastal communities.

Around the corner from the main exhibit in MoNA’s Outside In educational gallery’s Transition, Adaptation, and Action in Padilla Bay is an interactive installation that helps museum visitors experience the lush life of an eelgrass meadow and the unique ecosystem at the Padilla Bay Reserve. This exhibit is a collaboration between artist Helena Sarah Richardson, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Environmental Science’s Dr. Brooke Love, and David Frye from WWU’s SciTech, and includes art created by young visitors to Padilla Bay.

Both exhibits are on view through Jan. 21, 2024, and you can catch artist Natalie Niblack and scientist John Bower discussing the work behind the collaborative work, “66 Birds/3 Degrees” on Saturday, Jan. 20.