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Earth Day 2021


We’re celebrating the 51st anniversary of Earth Day with a two-week series of virtual programs and resources exploring the natural world.

Join us for conversations, art-making activities, and live performances designed to inspire creative action and reflection at home.


Thomas Cole

Virtual Conversation: Land and Power
Wednesday, April 21
Registration required

In this conversation led by museum educator Nancy Chen, explore works of art with representational, sculptural, and social dimensions that shed light on the relationship between land and power.

Ansel Adams

Virtual Conversation: Art and Climate Crisis
Friday, April 23
Registration required

Join visual artists Gabriela Salazar and Jenny Kendler, choreographer Carrie Hanson, and Laura Lupton, co-founder of artist-led collective Artists Commit, for a conversation exploring the intersections between artistic practice and environmental activism. This program is moderated by Mika Tosca, climate scientist and assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Blackbelteaglescout Sarahcass 01 2

Virtual Performance: Black Belt Eagle Scout
Friday, April 30
Registration required

Katherine Paul, who records and performs as Black Belt Eagle Scout, pairs her intimate indie rock with artworks from the Art Institute’s collection for a performance that reflects on our relationship to the natural world.

Video: The Seldoms—Excerpts from Floe 

This video premiere by the Seldoms presents two scenes from Floe, filmed on Chicago’s lakefront during the extreme winter weather of February 20 and 21, 2021.

With Floe, Seldoms choreographer Carrie Hanson responds to a series of paintings by German artist Gerhard Richter entitled Ice. Below, she shares how these works from the museum’s collection inspired her process.

The spectacle of a vast icy landscape undergoing change—ice melt, glacial calving, a thinning ice shelf—cued our physical vocabulary for Floe. Actions such as “collapse,” “fracture,” “heave,” and “diminish” are seen throughout the choreography, which aspires to convey a sense of disappearance and absence. These actions are also apparent to us in a series of paintings by Gerhard Richter, titled Ice. His very process of creating them, of scraping away many accumulated layers of paint, relates to a choreographic tactic we employed called “scraping,” which expresses pressure and friction and leaves the body changed and concave. Richter’s Ice paintings draw our attention to depth, surface, and light, just as the melting Arctic landscape draws attention to layers of ice, accumulated over millions of years, and their glittering, reflective surface, which stabilizes and preserves a livable climate.


Seedsinservice Phenologywheel Gardenart

Virtual Family Studio: Seeds InService
Saturday, April 24
Registration required

Observe the changing environment around you—plants, animals, and climate—and create your own seasonal phenology wheel with artists from Seeds InService. For this family-friendly studio, you’ll need:

  • A sheet of recycled paper, 8.5 x 11 inches
  • Mark-making tools (pens, colored pencils, markers, or crayons)
  • Something circular to trace, no larger than 8 inches in diameter
  • A straightedge, like a ruler or the spine of a book
  • Optional: a piece of onion skin or corn husk

If you can’t join us live, use this downloadable resource to create and explore on your own.

A light-skinned woman holds up a picture book for her audience to see while looking over at it reading.

Video: Picture This

Families with young children (5 and under) are invited to tune in to a new Picture This pairing Martin Puryear’s Sanctuary with a children’s picture book. Celebrate the awesomeness of nature through mindful exercises and outdoor play. Explore shapes, colors, and textures while creating paper sculptures inspired by objects in your own backyard.

Claude Monet

At-Home Activity: Monet and Chicago
Draw inspiration from the landscape paintings and writings of Impressionist artist Claude Monet and create your own playful drawings at home.

Monet and Chicago (on view through June 14) brings to light the long-standing connection between Monet’s works and Chicago collectors, stretching back to his paintings’ first appearance in a Chicago gallery alongside other Impressionist works in 1888. In 1903, the Art Institute of Chicago became the first American museum to purchase a painting by Monet, and the museum’s collection of his works continued to grow over subsequent decades.


This list of organizations, projects, and spaces compiled by Art Institute staff invites you to learn more about—and to support—creative climate activism in Chicago.

Chicago Gardens
The motto of Chicago, “urbs in horto,” means “city in a garden.” Explore and connect with the natural and tended beauty of Chicago’s 22 public gardens. 

Deep Time Chicago
Deep Time Chicago is an art/research/activism initiative that provides group readings, guided walks, lectures, panels, screenings, performances, publications, and exhibitions to explore crucial questions about global ecological change. Explore their website for pamphlets, projects, and a full calendar of events.

Forest Preserves of Cook County
With nearly 70,000 acres of native prairies, forests, wetlands, and rivers, Cook County’s forest preserves offer ample space to hike, rest, and wonder at the beauty of the county’s diverse natural lands.

Olafur Eliasson’s Atmospheric wave wall for the Willis Tower
Installed in January 2021, Atmospheric wave wall is the first public art installation in Chicago by artist and environmental activist Olafur Eliasson. Experience it for free on the exterior wall of the Willis Tower facing Jackson Boulevard.

The Poetry Foundation: Poetry and the Environment
Find inspiration in this collection of poems about ecology and the natural world curated by the Poetry Foundation.

Pin Save the Climate
Pin Save the Climate designs and sells pins, with 50% of profits going to climate justice organizations. Buy pins and spread the word!

Provoke Culture
This artist-led organization supports the creation of murals, digital illustrations, and community programs to provoke cultural conversations and change in Chicago. Visit their website to locate their public art in a neighborhood near you.

Hosted by Compound Yellow, Re-Fuse2021 is an artivist event celebrating the connections between Earth Day and May Day. It takes place on the final day of the international Sixth Festival (see below). Please register to attend.

The Sixth Festival
The Sixth Festival is a Chicago-based festival of free virtual and outdoor events bringing people together to build a better future and reverse the climate emergency. Visit the program calendar for a full list of events. The inaugural festival runs April 22–May 2, 2021.

Sunrise Movement Chicago
Sunrise Movement Chicago is part of a national movement of young people (under the age of 35) working to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. Visit their event calendar to participate in an upcoming introductory Zoom session.

Sweet Water Foundation
Practicing regenerative neighborhood development, Sweet Water Foundation transforms vacant and abandoned spaces through urban agriculture, art, and education. Learn more about their values and projects, attend their events, and lend your support. 

The WasteShed
Serving Chicago creatives, the WasteShed offers affordable, repurposed art, craft, and school supplies, as well as educational programming about sustainability and material culture. Donate materials, visit the store, or attend an event. 

As we celebrate our shared Earth, we acknowledge that the Art Institute is located on the unceded homelands of the Indigenous people of this region. We embrace our commitment to Indigenous rights, racial justice, and cultural equity not only through this statement acknowledging the history of our land but in our collecting and care of Native American objects, our exhibitions and programs, and our relationships with Indigenous communities.


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