Creative Expression for Climate Justice

This course explores community generated solutions to local climate challenges.


Course Information

Visual & Media Arts

Erin Trahan, Paul Turano

PARTNER ORGANIZATIONSFairmount Indigo CDC Collaborative, Speak for the Trees

Cynthia Francis, Theresa Lee, Ruth Whitney, Julia Rudolph, Andrealis Martinez, Sarah Moffatt, Arnaldo Pires

Through partnerships with organizations in Dorchester, class participants will collaborate with members of the community to envision strategies for dealing with extreme hot and cold climate events, air quality issues, and the benefits of green space access and nature-based solutions. Exploring a range of creative tools including creative writing, documentary film, interactive media, and performance, the course will provide students the opportunity to use expression for engagement, education, activism and social change. The course is part of the Engagement Lab's Social Impact Initiative "Transforming Narratives for Environmental Justice." There are no prerequisites, although we encourage students to take, or have taken, SI200 if possible.

Emerson students on a walk through the woods

A Look Inside the Co-Creation Process

by Olive Goldberg, student

The first few sessions of this course were incredibly unique, stimulating, and community-oriented. We spent three of our first six classes taking field trips to our community partners Fairmount Indigo CDC Collaborative and Speak for the Trees Boston. This allowed us  to familiarize ourselves with the areas, people, and communities in Boston that our partners are working to protect. We took the Fairmount Line and visited Upham’s Corner, one of the many neighborhoods that the line runs through. We visited a community garden and the beautiful Sherrin Woods, just off the end of the line. We also went on a tree walk with Speak for the Trees, all along exchanging ideas amongst learning partners and students. In the classroom, we continued to get to know one another through the “You Tree” projects, in which we all individually connected with a tree and creatively expressed our emotions in an artistic representation of the tree. 

This class was heavily discussion-based, and we didn't just talk about environmental justice, but also technology, social media, racism, and our emotions, including fears and hopes. All of these topics intersect, and our open discussions were key to our establishing a class unit. These classes were unique and impactful because they were so much more people-focused than “regular” classes. We spent a large portion of one class coming together to express our accessibility concerns, optimal learning conditions, expectations, and fun ideas (ie. better lighting! more fidgets! shared playlist!). 

I have struggled with classes in college and how robotic they often feel. Students enter, sit on laptops and phones, engage in lecture and/or discussion, then leave, airpods inserted by the time they reach the elevator. This class made me feel like we all really matter as individuals, and therefore that we all deserve to bring ourselves into what we create. Because of the topic of the class, we all came in with shared passion, interest, and urgency regarding the environmental crisis. We learned from each other, exchanged resources, expressed frustration, and discovered slivers of hope, this class being one of them. 

This was my second class at the Engagement Lab, after taking the Collaborative Documentary Studio in Spring 2023. I enrolled in both classes because I want to pursue film with the intention of using it for social impact. These classes are incredible ways for me to gain experience in doing just that. But even more so, Social Impact Studios allow collaboration with the hard-working, long-term activists in Boston, a city that many Emerson students will only live in for four years. Participating showed me that together we are able to strive for — and make — tangible change.

Fall 2023 - Creative Expression for Climate Justice Studio Participants

Studio Contact

Are you an Emerson student interested in enrolling in this course in the future? Please contact or to learn more!

Fall 2023 - Creative Expression for Climate Justice Partners