The Art of Understanding Coastal Change

There are many ways to communicate important matters of concern and ideas for discussion within the communities we live in.  One of the oldest methods and, arguably, most engaging is through art.  Motivating members of a community to understand the importance of coastal change issues is a task anyone can be involved in, but artists are uniquely positioned to reach people on an emotional level which figures and charts typically cannot.

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Project lead Dr. Kathryn Frank and team member Sarah Thompson discuss sea level rise with local artists at the Cedar Key Arts Center.

With this in mind, the Planning for Coastal Change in Levy County project has reached out to local artists to provide their unique perspective on the challenges of sea level rise and coastal change.  Project team member Sarah Thompson has been working with Cedar Key Arts Center director Amy Gernhardt to bring together a group of interested artists to begin the outreach project.  On Friday, November 15th the project team and local artists met for the first time to begin discussing coastal change issues in more detail and establish the goals of the art project.

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The coastal tour makes a stop at an information kiosk at the shell mounds near Cedar Key.  Discussion centers around how the estuary ecosystem will be impacted by sea level rise and the threats that native species will face.

IMG_1583Participating artists stroll into the woods of the Lower Suwanee.  Bordering rivers that feed directly into the Gulf of Mexico, forest wetlands such as these will potentially undergo great changes as salinity levels and coastal ecosystems migrate further inland over time.

Despite cold, rainy conditions the art group braved the elements on a tour of numerous locales where sea level rise impacts will be felt within and around Cedar Key.  Various areas through the Lower Suwanee National Wildlife Refuge, Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, and the city of Cedar Key itself were highlighted for discussion.  The tour was an open forum for participating artists to voice questions and concerns about sea level rise with their fellow community members and the project team.  It also served as an opportunity for the artists to begin considering the subject matter of their art piece in greater detail.  There was a general consensus of concern over the threats of sea level rise but an optimism that the communities of Levy County are resilient and will adapt to the coming changes.

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Sue Colson, previous Cedar Key mayor and commissioner, discusses the challenges the city has already faced in terms of sea level rise and the importance of preparing for the future. 

Please visit our ‘Artists‘ and ‘Events‘ webpage for more information and stay tuned for more details of the coming art exhibit in February 2014.

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