Chicago art exhibition focuses on global environmental injustice



An idea conceived four years ago led environmentalists and academics to create a multimedia art exhibit featuring local and global stories about climate injustice.

Visitors gather for the opening of “Climate of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice” Exhibition held At Chicago Justice Gallery. The exhibit was developed by University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) students and activists through the Humanities Action Lab, a coalition of universities and environmental justice organizations from cities in the United States, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Mexico.

Upon entering the gallery, visitors will be able tosacrifice zone” are unregulated industrial areas that pose environmental damage and long-term health risks to local residents.

One of Chicago’s sacrificial zones is located in Little Village. Little Village was covered in a thick cloud of dust after the explosion of the old Crawford coal-fired power plant in Chicago’s Southwest Side neighborhood. April 2020.

One report said the implosion worsened the health conditions of South Side and West Side communities, which already face disproportionate amounts of air pollution and hazardous waste. 2023 Cumulative Community Impact Summary From the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Jocelyn Vasquez, a lifelong Little Village resident and current community services organizer for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), said the South Lawn particularly highlighted health disparities for people living near industrial corridors. He said it was when he was part of the Dale community. Reported some of the regions with the highest infection rates of COVID-19 Throughout the course of the pandemic.

Many people in Vazquez’s community “didn’t have health insurance,” Vazquez said, which limited their ability to receive treatment.

Informing more people about environmental injustice through art has “healed” her community and helped people realize that “they have a voice and a right to share their experiences” about their neighborhoods. , Vasquez said.

LVEJO lead organizer and UIC graduate Edith Tovar said the exhibit is a “special home.”

“When I see the stories of my neighbors, it’s so beautiful,” she said, fighting back tears.

Visitors view art on display at the Chicago Justice Gallery on October 11, 2023. The exhibit, “Climate of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice,” was created by UIC students in collaboration with environmental activists. (Jacqueline Cardenas)
Activists, students, educators and community members listen to speakers at the “Climate of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice” exhibit on Oct. 11. The exhibit was developed by University of Chicago (UIC) students and advertising activists through the Humanity Action Lab. . (Jacqueline Cardenas)

The exhibit also featured areas in some parts of the city. 24 industrial corridorsincluding Altgeld Gardens, Calumet River, McKinley Park, Pilsen, and the Southeast Side.

UIC Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Engagement Amalia Parales said she hopes the exhibit will help spread awareness about how environmental impacts impact minority communities. Stated.

She added: “We have a sacrifice zone, but we don’t have people being sacrificed.”

Pallares said the exhibit taught students that climate change and environmental pollution are not isolated issues.

“They have to do with labor and economic inequality, immigration, health and justice,” Parales said.

Exhibit designer Lauren Miranda said the Social Justice Initiative wanted to illustrate the climate injustice that people face not only in Chicago but in many other places around the world.

“We tried to create different types of scenarios and situations that people around the world are in,” Miranda said.

For Essence McDowell, director of arts and communications at the Social Justice Initiative, creating the exhibition was “probably one of the most challenging projects” she has undertaken due to her personal connection to climate injustice. . She said her family now lives in one of the high-profile victim areas in northern New Jersey.

Essence McDowell, director of arts and communications for the Social Justice Initiative, will speak at the Chicago Justice Gallery on October 11, 2023. This exhibit was developed by University of Chicago (UIC) students and activists through the Humanity Action Lab. (Jacqueline Cardenas)

“I think it was an exhibition that really centered around our lives, this planet and its protection,” McDowell said.

Addressing a crowd of students, activists and community members, McDowell noted a colorful mural behind the exhibit depicting the Earth split in half by the peaks of the room’s two walls.

“When I stand in front of that mural, I think there are two things we can do with this planet: This planet will be destroyed, and that destruction will have a profound effect on us, forcing us to fight harder…” McDowell he said, pointing to the protesters depicted in the smoke background. “And there are other ways we can become part of the earth and integrate into nature and healthier habits.”

Dr. Rosa Cabrera, director of UIC’s Latino Cultural Center, said the exhibit will center climate change as an interconnected social justice issue and also encourage environmental leaders working to find solutions to climate inequality. He said he is focusing on.

“We wanted to acknowledge the work that dedicated communities in these areas continue to do to fight these battles,” Cabrera said.

Vasquez hopes visitors will walk away from the exhibit knowing that “they have the power to change this world.”

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