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The Power of Song and Play: Where Art Meets Activism


The campaign against climate change has found a new ally in the arts community. The last weekend in January, First Things First Okanagan (FTFO) hosted The Power of Song and Play: two days of environmentalism-themed performing art workshops, followed by evening performances. "We are always looking for new ways to fight climate change," stated FTFO board member Leanne McDonald.


The event was part of the 'Looking the Dragon of Climate Change in the Eye' initiative, which has thus far included lectures from the likes of Dr. Kirsten Zickfeld, co-author of the IPCC report, and wildfire consultant Rob Grey.


Saturday opened with a visceral performance from singer Raven Wood, followed by local musicians Tavis Weir and Maiya Robbie in the intimacy of the Shatford Building. Sunday began with a rendition of 'Coyote and the Dragon' by Anishinaabe artist Madeline Terbasket, which elicited both laughter and hushed contemplation. Next up came a gut-busting improv show featuring local theatre cooperative Peach Gravy and renowned comedy duo Hip.Bang!.


According to FTFO Chair Jim Beattie, the weekend was designed to reach a different community on a more emotional level", bringing new faces to the local fight against climate change. Art, said Beatty, is a powerful tool for activism which complements the earlier science-based lectures. "You don't have to have all the background to get the message. You see a picture of a fish with a piece of plastic around its neck, and it's so moving that it forces you to think about the issue."


Laughter and music also lend positivity to an issue often shrouded in doom and gloom. "You get depressed about climate change...but you are making a difference just by getting people engaged," said Beattie. Improv "allows two people from different [perspectives] to get into a conversation."


Environmentalism is a movement which Weir and Robbie hold close to their hearts, and is a recurring theme in their music. Both frequently draw on nature for inspiration, going so far as to write while canoeing. Weir expressed hope that their music might touch the audience's hearts, in the way that an intellectual lecture cannot, as people tend to rely on their emotions in daily decision-making.


FTFO is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting climate change awareness, and to finding solutions for a better future. Next up in the Dragon series comes an April symposium on solar power and electric vehicles, followed by a student art show depicting our changing future, coming to the Penticton Art Gallery this May.


Written by Sarah Kirschmann.

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© 2020 First Things First Okanagan

First Things First Okanagan is a non-profit society encouraging the public and all levels of government to take actions to halt climate change.