Climate change can feel big and overwhelming but I try to make small daily choices that are good for the environment and teach my daughter to do the same. I created The Polar Pom-Pom Project to engage elementary school children with art and the Arctic, in order to connect them directly with issues relating to climate change. I worked with 3rd – 5th grade classrooms discussing things kids can do to help the environment and how art can be used to help continue the conversation. More than 650 kids participated in the project and in the Fall of 2013 I packed up over two thousand yarn pom-poms made by children and myself and set off on a 3 week journey into the High Arctic.
I was part of a small diverse group of international artists boarding a tall ship in Svalbard, just 10 degrees from the North Pole. We were on a collaborative mission while pursuing our own work. We shared an incredible adventure yet also had a very singular experience. My senses were on high alert every day. I was visually spoiled and spatially challenged. I experienced exquisite silence, and haunting noise. There was joy, hope, sadness, exhilaration, isolation, community, frustration, exhaustion, pure wonder and awe-inspiring amazement. And yes, there were polar bears too.
While in the Arctic, we had three beautiful, strong, young women guides who were our polar bear protectors. The idea behind the portraits I did of them are that these women are guardians and protectors –of the land and environment, of the Arctic and of us, as well as of the pom-poms. I like the juxtaposition of the pom-pom images, traditionally a craft project which may evoke some feminine ideas, with these strong women carrying rifles. The young girl in Scout is our future guardian.
So what do pom-poms have to do with the Arctic? My daughter loves making pom-poms, and while I was thinking about the Arctic and snow and ice, a white palm-sized pom-pom she had made reminded me of a snowball, and that is how The Polar Pom-Pom Project began. I always think of kids when I see pom-poms. It is a popular childhood craft that has been around forever. So if a viewer wonders why there are pom-poms in the Arctic, it may lead them to think about kids. And what do kids have to do with the Arctic? A lot, if you ask me.
Let’s teach our kids to have an awareness of their imprint on the planet so they can begin to make their own smart choices as they grow older, and let’s do what we can to preserve our planet for our kids and for generations to come.
The Arctic is a very special place.