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Insights of an Eco Artist

Media Platform &

Creative Studio

Green + Just- i3C Group

i3C Group- Adriana Prat

In this first episode, we have a special guest, Adriana Prat, the visionary curator and artist behind the i3c Artists Collective. Join us as we embark on a captivating journey to explore how art can be a powerful tool in addressing the pressing environmental challenges that impact communities worldwide.

Joana Alarcão :  Thank you so much, for being here. It's really a pleasure to have you again, especially talking about your collective and being part of this new section of the magazine Green +Just. So I just want you to start talking a bit about the collective. How did it start?

Adriana Prat: First of all, Joana, Thank you for having me and the group, the i3c group again, it is amazing. I'm so grateful and also proud of what you do for environmental justice. So the seed of the group of the i3c artist group came to life, I would say in 2019. It was pretty much, and again, in a very organic way. That is the way that I do a lot of things in my life. So after years of being a part-time artist, I became, I had recently become a full-time artist and I went on a residency in Iceland, which I purposely chose Iceland because of their strong commitment to the environment, and sustainable energy.

But, anyway, after proposing the show to different venues, we were able to exhibit a five-person show in the Multicultural Arts Center here in Cambridge, in Boston, where I reside. And so, we did that during the pandemic, unfortunately. That was a pity, but anyway, the show is still even on, virtually. But for us, it was important also, Joana, to have a panel of climate experts and advocates, along with exhibits, because from the get-go, from the beginning of this, and this is the gem of the group, it was important not only to show the art, to speak about art, to have art inspired change, but also have an opportunity to offer a safe space in which we could engage with the audience, to speak about feelings and all sorts of things about the climate and also thoughts of the crisis and even offer some practical solutions. So I put together the proposal and the panel. I was kind of the point person from an organizational aspect. And after the show, I felt so inspired that this didn't have to finish with only one show. So it was only natural that I got engaged in speaking with other kindred souls who were also doing, trying to do their own from the artistic perspective.

And that's how I got engaged with bringing more people, and I became the curator and brought more people. We are now 22 artists and I'm proud to say that we even have a waitlist of very talented and very committed artists in the group. So that's basically the story of our group.

Joana: So you are also an artist within the group? 

Adriana: Yes, within the group. The first time that we showed 22 people, though, I was asked to, because I was a curator of the exhibit, the venue asked me not to participate, which I very quickly, said, no problem. My answer was, it's not about me, It's about the mission. 

But in general, I'm showing 

Joana: Yeah, you are one of the artists, not only the curator. So you are 22 artists, with you included. So how do you manage? How do you come together and plan exhibitions, events and all of that?

Adriana: Yeah, well, it is a bit challenging. I mean, in the beginning, it was a lot about me putting together the proposals for venues. You know, most of the time I got a yes. And then it was like "Oh, let's do this. And let's do that. And let's do the other one. "

So in the beginning it was interesting because it was me more like" I hope that they say yes". Then a year after I have to say, " Oh, I have to say no, because we have way too many." And again, I mean, in the beginning, I have been the curator and I have been more the decision maker.

However, now we have like the programming and the educational committee, we have the logistics, installation that is more hands-on in the exhibits, we have a finance team, and we have, of course, marketing, social media, newsletter, et cetera, like, you know, the media committee. So I normally call meetings. I participate in all of those meetings, all the committees and I seek their advice.

Many of the artists are local, but some are not. So we have most of our discussions happen virtually whenever we need to and sometimes we meet, of course, in receptions, closing or openings, et cetera. But that's how we operate. I don't know if you want any specifics, but anyway, the different meetings and the different committees are essential for different aspects of whatever we do.

For example, the programming committee is essential when we are in a venue. We have kind of like a catalogue of offerings of type of events and then depending on the venue, you know, length, availability, accessibility, or availability of the artist, et cetera, we do virtual or in-person, workshops or events, let's say. 

Joana: Okay. So you don't only do exhibitions, you have other initiatives that go along with the exhibition? Can you talk a bit about that? 

Adriana: Oh yeah, We have a list, I like to call it a catalogue maybe it's because of my science background, and the way I used to operate when I used to work in biotech.

You know, you want to be ready. You don't want to be, every time reinventing the wheel, so to speak. So, we offer workshops, we offer talks with climate or environmental experts. For example, we recently had a wonderful conversation with a climate scientist, Rachel Licker, from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

And if it's not that type of expert, we have others. In our network, we have talks on relevant issues like recycling or working with this kind of material, which is, as you know, a very important topic for me. Like Yulia Stern, one of our I3C artists who is currently in Italy. She gave a beautiful conversation or a virtual talk about that.

And also, some of us, including Rebecca, Cedric, Jeffrey, Carol, Michelle, and I don't want to forget whoever was there, but we had, at the Boston Center for the Art, had an in-person conversation, panel as part of the solo exhibit of Cedric, curated by Carol Moses, who is also one of our artists.

So we also have artists talking, which they talk about artistic processes or artistic inspirations, et cetera. We also had an initiative recently of gifting Young Native plants to the gallery visitors. That was something that was spearheaded by Carol also. So we do different things, and again, because we are multidisciplinary and diverse in backgrounds and experiences, we have a panoply of concepts, techniques, approaches to art and ideas regarding the environment, and climate crisis. So, for us in our exhibits, it's very important to have each artist speak or describe how the work relates to the mission. And we also, when it's feasible, in the venues, we offer videos from reputable organizations, that are more directed to climate crisis or climate justice or pollution or plastic. 

Our website is evolving, but we have a list of organizations that we support in various ways, like sometimes financially, or some of us, for example, Rebecca, and Michaela Nielsen, were both very active with Surfrider-Massachusetts and Surfrider-Massachusetts are very active in trying to bring accountability to the representatives about single-use plastics bills, et cetera.

So, I would say individually and as a group, would also like to plan, but we couldn't implement it yet. These are full visits. Because of logistics, you know, sometimes people said yes, but by the end of the show, of the exhibit, you know, then there are a number of logistics, bureaucratic, if you will, aspects of things that, you know, we cannot accomplish.

But anyway, we try to be adaptable because I'm a believer that the solutions for climate have to come from a lot of different ideas, and there are grey areas. I always feel that there is nothing black and white, you know, about the solution, that we need to be very creative also with the solutions.

Joana: So this is, sorry to interrupt you. So these events, because it's a lot of stuff and I'm trying to compartmentalize everything. In terms of exhibitions, so during an exhibition that goes, let's say, for a month, you have different events during that month or just during the beginning of the exhibition? Do you have these talks or conferences with people, or are there different events during certain months that don't have, or are not connected to the exhibitions?

Adriana: Well, again, we have evolved. So, we are evolving to be more proactive, hopefully. So now we have more regular meetings, every two months, maybe with the programming teams, etc. Before in the beginning, we were a bit more reactive, like, "Oh, we have to see if we need to come up with something."

So now we are shifting into being more strategic if you will. But again, it depends. As I said, typically we have a reception, an opening reception that is driven sometimes by the availability of the Venue, right? And that's more typical, an opening reception, in which we also are trying to create awareness for aspects, for example, the lack of use of plastic. 

Sometimes it's typical in a vernissage, in an opening or closing reception to have, like wine, cheese, or things like that, right?

So we are a bit specific about, or a lot of specific about like, "Oh, let's try to avoid plastic or let's try to only use composable or I'd rather not have food". Why have food or drinks if we don't need to, make it only about the art and the artists? So, those are some of the events.

Then, of course, we have workshops and we try to offer workshops that are related to the use of discarding materials, for example, we have 1 workshop that is called Cardboards and Coyotes which is making coyotes out of cardboard from cereal or from packaging and it's great for families. We have that at the Bellman gallery of our last, probably November. And, and it was amazing. A few of the families were teachers, some of the parents were teachers and they were like "Oh my God, I think that this will be great for the school." So those are the types of things that hopefully we will be able to offer in schools. 

We will have in Hopkinton Center for the Arts, Rebecca will offer Chime, making chimes with discarding materials at the next exhibit in September. We are trying also to create a workshop about mending, because in the Piano Craft Gallery, in September, this is going to be co-curated with Jeffrey Nolan and Michaela Morris. So I'm very excited.

So far I've been the curator and I had many times the help of some of the artists who were my assistants, but now we are co-curating and hopefully, we will be doing that more and more. And so I guess I lost track of what I wanted to say there, but, the idea that in the piano, we will have some themes for sure. For example, we have already native plants, like a couple of the artists are bringing native plant awareness. And also we have the fast fashion. So fast fashion will be something that we will talk and we will also do this workshop on mending garments. 

Joana: So, the exhibitions in specific do have themes, it's not only about climate change, they can have themes and workshops that are focused or talks that are focused on a specific theme.

Adriana: Well, so far they have been pretty general. They have been about climate with different aspects, like the sub-themes or the sub categories. There are artists who are using, you know, reclaimed materials. There are artists who are photographing areas that are suffering from the climate crisis right now, or metaphors for the climate crisis, or native plants, and then there are others who are more poetic. Like, I'm always more in the being inspired and creating topographies that resemble, you know, places that are in the natural world, in the ocean or in the land, but they are more affected by whatever is happening.

Okay. But, in the future, I'd say yes, we will have more sub-themes. That's something that I have spoken with some of the artists, too. Again, we're evolving.

Joana: Yeah, you started, I believe, a year ago. I assume that there are a lot of things that still need to be fine-tuned and changed as time flies and goes.

Adriana: Exactly. 

Joana: So do you have any success stories or positive outcomes that you have seen from the work of the collective? How does the audience respond, how do kids respond to the things you are doing? 

Adriana: We are a very young group, right? But the good thing is that we, I feel that people and venues mostly are recognizing our efforts.

I have probably an isolated success story in the sense of, for example, with youth, in the sense that we have brought children and family, and they are very engaged. I mean, I remember this grandchild of one of the artists who was very engaged with one of my paintings that had kind of concentric, if you will, maps showing how the coastal lands are going to evolve and basically they are going to reduce, like islands are going to disappear, right? And, I love to see how he got the idea and he was a young child. So, those types of things are great. So, we want to see more of those, you know. 

And when I speak about school visits, it's from and to, right? Hopefully, students visiting our exhibits, but also groups of artists going and speaking about our mission. 

Now, what I could say the venues are recognizing our efforts. People are recognizing our efforts. We are kind of like, I don't want to say gold standard, but at least, you know, it's like, there is not a single week in which I'm not approached by an artist who says," Oh my God, I didn't know about your group. But now it's like, I want to hear more."

Either they want to engage in conversations with our artists, or they want to, as I said, belong in the group. Venues are recognizing us. And recently, for example, we were approached when I was going to actually take a break from exhibiting because we had way too many.

We were approached by the Cambridge Art Association and they invited us to inaugurate, to debut their new gallery in association with Biomed Realty for Earth Day, for Earth Month. And like literally this past month, I was also approached by another organization, Lab Central. Lab Central is a non-profit organization. You know, like work labs, I don't know if you have an equivalent in the EU, but these are places that offer the full gamut of lab equipment and lab space to startups.

Joana: Like when the startups need space to start.

Adriana: Yeah. Yeah. It's very costly, right? To have a lot of space and, and equipment. So then you rent a space, and this is amazing in the biotech ecosystem of Cambridge. Lab Central is, is really the, the biggest. And we are going to be showing in September, they have two spaces, two gallery spaces.

And I decided to open it to other artists. You see, in the spirit of also like, I cannot bring them today as members, but now we will have two group shows with I3C artists and guest artists in this space. 

So, it is great and, I mean, I like this idea also of bringing it to other artists who, you know, are very interested in our group. So, it gives us a chance for them to know whether they like us and for us to also have them belong in our community. Because I think creating communities is the most important thing, right? To start this grassroots. 

Joana: Yeah. And in terms of the artists? Have you seen - because joining a collective can be sometimes very stressful for an artist or very good for them because they have a lot of outcomes coming about their art and that can be very good for their artist career- so what have you seen when you look at the group, from when they started and where they are now. Any positive outcomes?

Adriana: Well, for sure. Again, I mean, the artists are from the get-go very established. I mean, I would say most of the artists were already very successful at showing in different places and some were, more or less, engaging in, for example, working with organizations that are aligned with our mission. So I've seen growth definitely in people. I have grown. I have grown. I, for example, as an artist, I've been so inspired by the artists who are doing work with repurposed material. I'm making, let's say one line of my work right now is more about purely working on reclaim materials because I've been painting on upcycle or whatever repurpose, supports. But right now I'm also interested in not painting, but doing work with that. 

So, some people again, because we had 5 shows last year, if you count from June to June, right 5 shows. Kind of 15 events, between workshops, opening, closing, talks, and things of the sort. So we have a lot happening. So I think that some probably felt it's a lot because they felt like," Oh my God, how can I catch up?" But again, I'm not, extremely, at this point, punitive in a way, like, if someone volunteers, I'm not strict, if somebody couldn't volunteer because of health issues or family issues it's fine, but they always have to find a way to continue to volunteer, to give. For example, to pay for something or to come and do, and promote, et cetera. So I've seen growth, definitely. I hope that you know, in your conversations with them, you also hear that.

But it has been great. The community, creating community and having more conversations and feeling more empowered to speak about these, you know, with the venues and with the corporations. It's very good. 

Joana: Yeah. That's very good. So what advice would you give an artist who is trying to use their creative talents to talk about social and ecological justice?

Adriana: Well, I'd say you have to do it. The advice is that you have to do it. You have to not be afraid. I mean, because in my own experience, I feel I follow my instincts. Sometimes I was very afraid. I want to say, I mean, in my podcast, or previous podcasts, or maybe in my blogs, I speak about, you know, I grew up in a military dictatorship afraid to speak up.

So I did a lot of work to be vocal about things that I feel very strongly about. But with the kind of being afraid, there is no fear, fear is not an option when what is at stake is so important. It's critical, right, the need for awareness and action. So follow your instinct and join others with the same authentic desire to bring change to the world.

And be aware of opportunistic individuals and organizations. So really follow your core, your gut. You have to find your own artistic voice and ways to speak about what you see and what you see happening in the world, in terms of the environmental and climate crisis at the local and global level and, also the associated social inequality, right? 

So yeah, that's really it. And if you want, join us, talk to us, talk to me. I can always give advice. Also maybe one day, I won't rule out this, but I want the group to be global, to continue being global, I put a stop to the membership because of growing pains, right?

I don't like to, you know, add people just because, without giving them an opportunity to participate, you know, and also, have opportunities to exhibit, et cetera, and also give myself a breather in how things are. You know, to grow, in science, we don't change too many factors, too many variables.

So that's why I think it's important, for the chemistry of the group, for the impact of the group, we have to grow in a way that is sustainable. 

Joana: So you are totally open - so the membership is closed - but if an artist, a young artist or an established artist wants to contact you for advice or to know more about the collective or know whether you have exhibitions or talks, you are totally open to that?

Adriana: Exactly, exactly. And see, what we're doing right now is we are, for example, for this next one that we will do in September, the Piano Craft Gallery that I'm co-curating, right, with two other artists, we put together like a call, a formal call. We changed a bit the statement, and we gave more strict deadlines and things like that to make it also easier, for us who are organizing, right? The exhibit, of course, is very friendly. We even opened it to some of the artists who are interested in joining the group but cannot now because of the membership being put on hold. Maybe in the future, we will have more artists and then we will go with calls. So then everybody will have an opportunity to regulate their own participation. And also we have an opportunity to regulate that. 

And so having a bigger, because again, we are not a nonprofit. This is something that is important. We are not a nonprofit. Being a nonprofit in the US is a complicated process, it's not impossible, but it's a complicated process that takes time. I hate to say that sometimes it is about money, right? .It's normal. It's an aspect for us to be sustainable, right? To pay for the websites or whatever. So we are now at the stage in which we are going to be doing more of that, maybe asking for fiscal sponsorships, things like that.

So, to be able to handle our financial aspects very well, I'm very transparent, you know, et cetera. And that would give us, if we get grants and donations, then we would be able to be bigger, right? And, to handle things in a different way. And to engage with the community, which is the most important in a way that is sustainable also.

Joana: Yeah. So that's going to be your next step for growth. Being able to ask for grants from the government or any other things like that. Being a non-profit would be the next step.

Adriana: Hopefully, yes. And again, because we will do it in the beginning with people who are internal, right? Hopefully, it will be somebody who joins or 1 of the artists already that says "Oh, I can do that." Uh, and then, that covers for the volunteering time that, you know, we should all be giving. Right now we are giving time on different aspects, right? Like, in the committees, in the installation, in the co-curating, or the curating, or assisting, etc.

Some people are donating all the native plants. Or, for example, we are planning to have a virtual gallery that is more 3D. And one of the artists is volunteering, you know, is giving that. And donating, we want to do it in a different way, more like, an organization that is more mature. So, that would be the next step. 

Know more about Adriana here.

Adriana G. Prat is an academically-trained scientist with a PhD in Biophysics turned abstract artist. As you speak with her, you will learn that Adriana has also been passionate about the environment since her childhood days in Argentina, when her father educated her to value nature that provide us with food and beauty. This understanding influenced her curiosity that led to life choices, including her decision to become a scientist and a vegetarian.

After Adriana moved to the US, a more introspective lifestyle inspired her to embrace art-making. She studied the basics of drawing and painting mainly at adult education institutions, but she considers herself highly self-taught. After switching her full time focus to art, an art residency in amazing insular Iceland, further motivated her to find a new unique way to communicate her environmental concerns. Informed by her scientific experience, through her work and the work of other artists - via her curatorial activities (see, Adriana’s quest is to find a way to live a more sustainable life and to inspire change in others to halt climate change. For her artworks, she works on alternative painting supports such as corrugated cardboard and repurposed canvases.

Adriana has exhibited at open studios, galleries, alternative spaces, and museums, in Argentina, and the US, mostly in the greater Boston area. More recently, she has shown in galleries in Reykjavík, Iceland, and London, UK. When not at her Cambridge studio, Adriana welcomes visitors to a shared studio in the Boston SoWa Art & Design District.

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