Nannup’s weather studio combines art, science and education to help observers learn to live with climate change


As scientists continue to warn of the irreversible effects of climate change, a small group of creative West Australians are using art to help people live on a damaged planet.

Jo Pollitt, Doctor of Philosophy, has spent years figuring out how to help people overcome apathy and feel overwhelmed by the threat of climate change.

“We’re increasingly disconnected from our surroundings because of technology, constant distractions, phone use, workloads,” she said.

Dr Pollitt has started a new research project that would involve setting up small theaters called weather studios in regional communities in WA.

She said people can visit the interpretive art facilities to observe the weather and learn how its changes affect the area.

Dr Pollitt and Noongar actor Maitland Schnaars perform to the sound of child-created rain.(Provided: Art Gallery of WA)

“The weather studio will be a place where we bring together artists, scientists and educators,” she said.

“To try to address some of the major issues that we face.”

The first of these weather studios is planned for Nannup, approximately 255 kilometers from Perth.

Dr Pollitt said art could help people come to terms with the problem from a new perspective.

A view from behind of two women sitting in chairs outside with red curtains visible in front of them.
Dr Pollitt says people will be able to sit, watch and reflect on the climate at Nannup Weather Studio.(ABC Southwest: Dinushi Dias)

“I absolutely believe that if we can reestablish a connection, it will help us to generate empathy with what is going on,” she said.

A new way to explain the weather

Weather studios would also be a resource for collecting and sharing stories and statistics on how the weather is changing in regional and rural areas.

Dr Jo Pollitt
Dr Jo Pollitt says climate information collected at weather studios will be shared with schools.(Dinushi Dias)

Dr Pollitt said this information would eventually be shared by schools and the ultimate goal would be to change the way the weather is reported.

She said information collected in weather studios could be broadcast on the radio so that regular weather forecasts are made more meaningful with local stories, facts and experiences about how the climate is changing over time.

“So when you’re in the car you hear the weather report and then you get another creative weather response somewhere in Western Australia,” she said.

“[It could be] a Noongar weather story of place and time, a settler’s story, a childhood memory, a farmer’s response.”

Conversations with the Rain

The concept of weather studios grew out of Dr. Pollitt’s earlier project, Conversations with Rain, which encouraged children to feel and learn about the weather through a series of creative mindfulness exercises, including journaling.

Open diary with writing saying think of this rain book as an invitation to be like the weather.
The journal offers a range of creative exercises in rain and weather detection.(Provided: Art Gallery of WA)

Co-creator Lilly Blue, who leads learning and creativity research at the Art Gallery of WA, said the journal was used in student workshops and distributed at places such as the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery .

“It was very clear that the creative processes we worked with definitely raised the attention,” she said.

“First Nations and Indigenous practices have been working on this for thousands and thousands of years.”

Two girls look at a screen with a man dancing on it
Conversations with Rain features artists such as Wangkatjunga-Walmajarri man Ngarralja Tommy May and Noongar actor Matiland Schnaars. (Provided: Art Gallery of WA)

“The hope is that a more connected relationship with our surroundings means we’re more likely to notice and care more deeply,” Ms Blue said.

“Art elevates consciousness”

Menang Ngadju elder Carol Pettersen said having a strong sense of time has helped indigenous people adapt and survive throughout history.

She said art could play a powerful role in helping today’s society learn how.

A woman wearing glasses smiles at the camera in front of a green bush and the ocean
Ms Pettersen says we may be on the brink of another mass extinction of flora and fauna.(ABC Great Southern: Mark Bennett)

“Our behavior was in response to how nature changed with the season and the weather,” she said.

“Our Aboriginal people, we survived the Ice Ages, we survived all these other mass extinctions that have happened on the planet.”

Ms Pettersen recently worked on the Genestreme Sculpture, a 3.5 meter ‘evolving tree’, located in one of the few protected bush properties in the Porongurup area. The sculpture shows the extinction of plants and wildlife.

A group of people in front of a sculpture
Auntie Carol says art can tell a story better than words, which is helpful in sharing traditional knowledge and science.(ABC Great Southern: Tom Edwards)

“It’s science using art to tell the story,” she said.

“[To raise] this awareness of where we are and what our response is going to be.”

Additional production by Mark Bennett and Tom Edwards.

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