Published: Nov. 13, 2019

A team at CU Boulder is working to expand the conversation around environmental futures and has been awarded $225,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of the effort. 

The Mellon grant will support a year-long program of events led by four CU Boulder faculty members: 

  • Erin Espelie, assistant professor of cinema studies and critical media practices and co-director of the NEST Studio for the Arts
  • Brianne Cohen, assistant professor of art and art history
  • Andrew Cowell, professor of linguistics
  • Lori Peek, professor of sociology and director of the Natural Hazards Center

Their project, “Deep Horizons: Making Visible an Unseen Spectrum of Ecological Casualties & Prospects,” will center on three core principles: reflecting on indigenous perspectives, conceiving nonhuman agency, and better understanding the role of the arts in sustaining life on Earth. 

CU Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano expressed his enthusiasm for the collaborative and innovative work. 

“This is the first year CU Boulder was invited to apply for this prestigious grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,” DiStefano said. “We’re thrilled that our outstanding, interdisciplinary faculty garnered this award and look forward to the national attention that it will bring to CU Boulder’s campus next year.” 

In fall 2020 and spring 2021, the project team will host a graduate seminar, bringing together dozens of university participants, including Valerie McKenzie, Clint Carroll, and Paul Sutter, as well as national and international keynote speakers, visiting artists and a postdoctoral student. The speakers will include climate-change scientists, eco-philosophers, sound artists and more. 

"CU is already a crucible for such ecology-based research, but how can we better see and harness its connections across the arts, humanities, and sciences?” Cohen said. “I am thrilled that our seminar will bring so many smart voices together, to help foster a vision needed for a more ethically sound, inhabitable planet." 

The outcomes will also include two public exhibitions, curated by Espelie, that reflect on ideations of a more ethically durable future, as well as a published anthology from the year of study by the project team. 

The Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies will bring much-needed attention to unique and often neglected knowledge about climate change and ecological crisis. Similarly, the Natural Hazards Center will play a key role in shaping the yearlong programming. 

"The climate change experts who will gather on campus this coming year have much to share regarding how to ultimately reduce the growing threats that we all face,” Peek said.