Art has always been an important tool of the environmental movement. For decades, music and imagery have been used to highlight the beauty of nature, to inspire concern and motivate the need for environmental protection. And more recently, groups like the Sunrise Movement and 350.org have used consistent, striking and recognizable art across all platforms and at protests to help grow the climate justice movement.
And Noreen Inglesi and Bina Gehres are no strangers to the power of good art to inspire hearts and change minds. Their non-profit arts organization, Notable Works (notableworks.org), has released ‘Voices of the Earth: The Future of Our Planet’ volumes I and II, compilations of local poetry about the climate crisis and environmental stewardship. The pair has worked on a number of projects with environmental organizations based in Rhode Island and most recently, they’ve put together a striking video in partnership with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, titled The Earth Is in Our Care.
“What we wanted to do with the song was present ways that people could take part in helping to save the planet,” said Inglesi, when I interviewed them about their latest project. “It’s about our feelings about the environment and the human spirit, and everything happening now in 2020. It all kind of comes together for us,” added Gehres.
Watch ‘The Earth is in Our Care’, and read the full interview with the artists below.
Alex Kithes (Motif): Which organization(s) are each of you representing?
Noreen Inglesi: We are both representing Notable Works Publication and Distribution Company, Incorporated
AK: What inspired you to create this project? Tell me a little about the partnership between Notable Works and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.
NI: The Earth Is in Our Care was inspired to address the issue of climate change. What we wanted to do with the song was present ways that people could take part in helping to save the planet – talking about living sustainably, renewable energy and weaning ourselves off fossil fuels and onto electric cars and solar energy. And the Audubon Society of Rhode Island was a big inspiration for this project. They love nature and connecting people to it. And when putting together this video presentation, Paige Therien and her staff really helped to bring this together with their great photos and video clips, which were a perfect fit for the lyrics of the song. And Bina is perfect at matching the right photos and video clips to the lyrics. It was really great to work with her.
BG: When we met with Paige Therien, what she said was golden, and it really steered us in the right direction.
NI: Absolutely! All of the information about pollinator highways, and so many of the projects they’re doing were such a great inspiration.
Also, the staff wonderfully helped with our second and soon-to-be-released project with this organization entitled “Notable Works’ Tribute to Audubon Society of Rhode Island.” The staff shared some of their current projects as well as their personal stories. For example, Kim Calcagno, Refuge Manager at Powder Mill Ledges Wildlife Refuge, sent us a story about how, when she was growing up, she and her grandfather would save toads in the backyard before they mowed the lawn. That story was something that I could relate to. The love for all the creatures on the Earth is so important and such an inspiration.
BG: “The Earth Is in Our Care” video presentation is intended to try to help everyone realize that each of us can take an active part in saving our planet – not just interns and those educated in the field.”
AK: Watching the video, I was struck by the combination of deep and emotional music, provoking imagery, and the broader ideas and concepts of environmental degradation and protection. Tell me a little more about the project from your perspectives, and explain to me a little about your artistic goals in designing and creating the video.
BG: Noreen and I are quite a team. She writes from the heart, and I’m very visual. We have two computers going at the same time, and it just flows. It’s about our feelings about the environment and the human spirit, and everything happening now in 2020. It all kind of comes together for us.
NI: One note about the interlude. It was so important to put in the video clip of the butterfly – Audubon sees pollinators as key to maintaining the balance of nature and they feel protecting them is vital for our future.
AK: Do you have any projects coming up you want to tell me about?
NI: As I mentioned earlier, our new project is “Notable Works Tribute to Audubon Society of Rhode Island.” I wrote the music and poetry based on all the valuable work and emotion that each of the staff contributed. And input from each of their personal stories is going into the song, which is then being made into a presentation. Paige is working on getting together photos and video clips from the staff, and the music is all done. The Notable Works’ Ensemble (Tina Bernard, vocals; Maria Bilyeu, cello; Dalita Getzoyan, flute and vocals; myself on vocals, and Alison Shea, piano) is working on a final recording of the song. The presentation will be released soon.
AK: Tell me more about your other project, Voices of the Earth: The Future of Our Planet book of poetry, volumes 1 and 2. (Full disclosure: the author was a contributing poet in ‘Voices of the Earth: The Future of Our Planet II’)
NI: Last year, we published Voices of the Earth: The Future of Our Planet I, which addressed the issue of climate change. Notable Works is an arts organization, dedicated to raising awareness for environmental and social concerns through the arts. The first volume of Voices of the Earth: The Future of Our Planet focused on the beauty of nature and primarily Rhode Island. We included some poems that were written with The Nature Conservancy, and focused on the need to protect our natural resources and Rhode Island’s natural beauty. In the second volume, Voices of the Earth: The Future of Our Planet II, we did a call for poetry with the theme of resilience, sustainable living and adapting to a changing climate.
AK: What brought you both into environmental activism?
BG: Knowledge – we learned. I can’t quite explain it, but the more you learn, the more interested you get. The Audubon Society has opened up a whole world to us. But we started out a long time ago with The Nature Conservancy. I had a friend who worked there, who would tell me how we need to address the climate crisis. We asked the staff at the Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island if we could learn more about what they do and write music about it and the project was incredible.
NI: I used to do a lot of science projects as a kid. I was always interested in air pollution, I always had a heart for animals, and I’ve always loved the ocean and being with nature. Our natural resources are so important, as is maintaining the balance of nature – so everyone can get a fair shake, including the creatures.
AK: Anything else you wanted to talk about that we didn’t cover?
BG: We can’t say enough about the environmental agencies here in Rhode Island, how wonderfully they’re doing with the treasures they have to guard. They’re doing a good job protecting endangered species and their natural habitats.
NI: Part of the reason for our books was to highlight the agencies that are doing such good work in our state. And at the same time, we asked them if there are any volunteer opportunities and included them in Voices of the Earth: The Future of Our Planet I and II. It gives anybody that is really interested in trying to take an active part in their community a place to go, get involved and to help.