Museum Alliance on Climate Change

Environmental Alliance of Santa Barbara County Museums Initiates Collective Action

Museum Alliance on Climate Change

Environmental Alliance of Santa Barbara County Museums Initiates Collective Action

By Charles Donelan | May 5, 2022

In “Impact: Climate Change & the Urgency of Now,” 14 leading local museums and cultural institutions unite to creatively explore the impacts of climate change through art, history, science, or nature. Exhibits and activities from April to September 2022 aim to inform, inspire, and prompt action. | Credit: sbmuseumsalliance photos

In the 21st century, museums are shedding their images as static containers for valuable objects and seeking to make a difference in the world outside their walls. Starting in 2020, 12 Santa Barbara County museums, a botanical garden, and a zoo came together to form the Environmental Alliance of Santa Barbara County Museums. Although the project’s scope extends to all aspects of the environment, the driving force for this initiative came from experiencing the impact of climate change. The list of organizations involved is impressive: UCSB’s Art, Design & Architecture (AD&A) Museum; the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art; MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara (MCASB); the Old Mission Santa Barbara museum; the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden; the Santa Barbara Historical Museum; the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA); the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and its Sea Center; the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation; the Santa Barbara Zoo; and the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature. 

“Climate Change Challenge” includes an installation of Calder Kamin’s “SuperArtificial,” a “garden” inhabited by foxes and canids – all made of upcycled plastic waste, including bags, cutlery, pen caps, game pieces and more.

Every other year, the Alliance will choose a theme for each member organization to pursue in its way. The resulting exhibitions, media campaigns, and educational programs will take place from April through September at various locations throughout Santa Barbara County, including but not limited to the museum sites. The Alliance intends to create experiences that inspire solutions and motivate citizens to take action to heal the environment. The theme is “Impact: Climate Change and the Urgency of Now,” and the various projects fall into four categories for this season. Some, like Dive In: Our Changing Channel at the S.B. Museum of Natural History Sea Center, which offers visitors an underwater tour of the Channel and its islands, focus on local impacts. Others, such as the exhibition Fire and Ice: Our Changing Landscape at the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature, offer a global perspective. Exhibits and workshops at the UCSB AD&A Museum, MCASB, and MOXI highlight how artists can become activists. Finally, educational programs such as the Conservation Summer Camp at the Santa Barbara Zoo and the SBMA’s Student Reflections gallery show target the next generation of environmentalists. 

When I spoke with Alexandra Terry, chief curator at MCASB, about the Alliance last week, she credited Stacey Otte-Demangate, executive director at the Wildling, with coming up with the idea for the collaboration. “Stacey saw what the Getty was able to do with Pacific Standard Time,” Terry told me, referring to a successful program that brought museums from all over Southern California together in service to a shared theme. “She brought her knowledge and passion about climate change to the group.” What began as a series of weekly meetings on Zoom has now blossomed into a wide-ranging program with a calendar full of engaging exhibits and activities. To learn more about what’s available, visit

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