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New Cincinnati Museum art installation explores links between climate change and racial justice

 Each speaker selected items to symbolically represent themselves and culture at the installation exhibit.  [Provided]
Each speaker selected items to symbolically represent themselves and culture at the installation exhibit.

A new multimedia installation exhibit "Regeneration" explores the intersection of climate change and racial justice at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Artist Erin Fung says her exhibit offers museum goers the chance to listen in on conversations with Indigenous groups in Cincinnati, as well as a roundtable discussion with Indigenous elders, young artists and hunters in Inuvik, which is in the northwest territories of Canada.

" 'Regeneration' is not your typical museum exhibit," she said. "We're trying to kind of decolonize curated spaces and allow for people to really take a moment to sit back and step away and listen to a real authentic conversation and appreciate this kind of dialogue."

She says the installation includes a table and objects that represent each speaker.

Fung says the piece was inspired after thousands of Indigenous children's bodies were found in unmarked graves at former residential schools within the past year. It's something Indigenous people have known about for decades. But only recently, as bodies were discovered, did the injustice find its way into mainstream conversation. The discovery prompted her to explore, through her art other ways Indigenous people suffer hardship.

That includes how Indigenous people are disproportionately impacted by climate change.

"So climate change primarily tends to affect our most vulnerable communities … people who don't necessarily have access to the resources and the privileges that allow them to weather extreme events linked to climate change." she said. "So we have lots of examples of communities, even along the Ohio River, who are directly impacted by petrochemical industry and pollutants."

In Canada, Indigenous tribes are already seeing direct changes to their landscape due to climate change. She says melting permafrost, microplastics in food sources, and having to relocate homes due to climate change are all issues Indigenous people are facing.

"What we were trying to do is get Indigenous perspectives on our changing landscapes, and to hear these conversations and share traditional knowledge on interconnectedness, sustainability and responsible stewardship," she said.

The exhibit opens Friday and runs at the Cincinnati Museum Center until Jan. 8.

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