Published: June 21, 2019

The University Libraries are constantly rolling out new exhibits with campus and community partners. The Libraries have been a continuous partner in CU Boulder’s “Documenting Change” program, which showcases the intersection between artists and scientists in their study of climate.

Students from University Hill Elementary School bee designs hang on wall.

“Documenting Change: Observations in Art,” in Norlin Library’s STEAM gallery, looks at how interpretations of Colorado’s environmental data can inform and inspire art. For the past year, this collaborative installation has continued to evolve and adapt as ideas continued to be exchanged.

Exhibit collaborators include internal units within the Libraries, CU researchers, ATLAS students, and elementary school students from the University Hill Elementary School in Boulder.

The project came full circle when third, fourth, and fifth-grade art classes taught by Mary Powell used the data compiled by various CU researchers. The Uni Hill students translated the scientific data into art, focused on issues that endanger Colorado’s ecosystems. The resulting artworks demonstrate how the students see the risks that pollinators, flowering plants, pine trees, and bears face regularly. Science Librarian Barbara Losoff initiated the exhibit and said that despite their age, these elementary school students understand these issues exist.

“These kids know when the bears show up at their school and as a result, the school goes into lockdown,” said Losoff. “They understand the impacts of wildfires. They saw what happened in Colorado last year and California. If kids can be observers of their environment they’re already contributing.”

This exhibit emphasizes collaboration and making connections that, while they may not seem obvious, could have a long-lasting effect on science, art, and the people who are exposed to it. Reaching out to elementary students for this project was important to Losoff because introducing students to the STEM fields at a young age can make a strong impression early on. Additionally, the exchange of observations is important for communities to engage.

“I want people to connect with this exhibit,” she said. “We want the community to be engaged with this because climate change is critical to us all. This exhibit is proof that we are all noticing it.”

The community is encouraged to visit the STEAM Gallery and observe for themselves the exhibit during Norlin Library’s open hours.