The Power of Collaborations between Environmental Science, Contemporary Art, and Communities in Advancing Sustainable Development/ DC Convening, 2017

HYAtt Place, Washington DC

In partnership with the Provisions Research Center for Arts and Social Change at George Mason University and the Washington D.C. SW Business Improvement District, City as Living Laboratory invited a group of artists, designers, urban planners, policy advocates, environmental scientists, activists, art scholars & critics, informal science educators, legislators, and the media to a convening to discuss diverse approaches towards sustainable development

The City as Living Laboratory put forth two complementary concerns to address: 1) What will enable contemporary, socially-minded art to fulfill its role in achieving the sustainable development goals; and 2) What will enable communities and institutions to collaborate more effectively with artists:

1.      How can we foster roles for artists to advance sustainable development by deploying their unique skills to engage people and urban communities through visceral, personal, emotional or place-based experience?

a.       Beyond raising awareness, sharing knowledge and considering attitudes, how can the artistic endeavor promote and support the long term, day to day process of creating sustainable development in communities? Link to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (

2.      How can urban communities and institutions collaborate, and communicate with contemporary artists with the goal of making a better future possible?

a.       What training, support, coordination is necessary to make this process of community engagement effective, inclusive, respectful and meaningful?
b.       What would be necessary (from cities, funders, etc.) to facilitate artistic endeavors in ways that support the needs of artists, the scientists, and communities to ensure the delivery of high quality, significant contributions?
c.       By what means can the artistic endeavor be funded so it provides time for artists to establish significant, direct connections with focus communities?nt, how do we plan for a green sustainable and accessible Chinatown while retaining the contextual character?

From these questions arose a robust and wide-ranging discussion.

This workshop was part of a continuing project supported by the Mellon Foundation to provide cities, policy builders, contemporary artists and other key stakeholders in sustainable development with an increased understanding about the role of art in advancing sustainable development. The overarching goal was to reflect on strategies and tools to invite, select, support and integrate artists into the process of building sustainable societies.

From it’s participants, a network of like-minded but diverse institutions is growing, who looks forward to a second convening in 2020, and many participants in this convening took part in our national CALL/WALKS program in 2019.