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Small Island Big Song Residency Brings Climate Activism Through Art to NC State

This week, NC State students, faculty and staff will have a unique opportunity to learn about the impacts of climate change through musical performances.

Small Island Big Song, a group of musicians from Island Nations across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, will spend this week in residence with NC State LIVE, and have various events planned across campus to help educate the NC State community about the impacts of climate change on the world’s oceans. 

Liza Green, NC State LIVE’s associate director, called the collaboration “several years in the making,” saying that NC State has been interested in bringing Small Island Big Song to campus since 2021. 

“It’s amazing,” Green said. “It feels like the culmination of a huge creative effort, with so many people and partners across campus pitching in to help make it become a reality. So that, to me, is what’s so exciting about it.”

It feels like the culmination of a huge creative effort.

Taiwanese theater producer BaoBao Chen and Australian music producer Tim Cole visited artists from 16 different island nations over the course of eight years to record songs with their guidance. 

Among the artistic performances NC State students, employees and community members will have a chance to see this week will be a screening of the company’s Small Island Big Song film as part of the Global Film Series, a concert at Stewart Theatre on April 12 and more.

“Not only is their music really compelling, but they’re coming together across different Indigenous cultures to share knowledge,” Green said. “They’re also interested in global issues that are the big challenges of our time. I know the NC State community is also interested in exploring interdisciplinary solutions to the grand challenges of our time. So when we introduce our campus to artists like this who are working at the highest level artistically, and they have really powerful things to communicate through their art, I think everybody can find a way in.”

The group will also host several forums and discussions during their week on campus. 

These include a “Becoming Better Climate Educators” research and art workshop on Centennial Campus developed by the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center’s Global Change Research Fellows, an Office of Undergraduate Research Lunch and Learn and a Cross-College Climate Conversation presented by the KIETS Climate Leaders Program in Talley Student Union.

“You can tell from the list of events that this group of artists and their mission has been a catalyst for our university, because we have so many different groups working on climate issues, and so many students who are curious about climate science and sustainability,” Green said. “So artists like this really get people excited on campus.” 

For NC State, a residency and run of events like this is a further demonstration of the connection between STEM disciplines and art disciplines that isan emphasis on campus. 

Last fall, the Arts and Your Major series returned to show the intersection between the two, and Small Island Big Song is another example of a group that uses art as a way to communicate complex scientific issues in a way that resonates with all audiences.

“I think of science and art as cousins. They’re both rooted in curiosity and a quest for understanding the world,” Green said. “They help explain and make sense of the world around us.. Artists do that, and these artists in particular do that through their music and traditional cultural forms. Scientists do that through their research. This is a chance for those two disciplines to collide. I think NC State in general is such a fertile ground for that to happen. We have such creative thinkers here and scientists who are interested in sharing their research in compelling ways. There’s a real energy around science and arts right now here on campus. It’s an exciting time.”

This post was originally published in DASA.