Esteemed Artist Mel Chin to Speak at Appalachian April 2

Mel Chin

How does art contribute to solving social and environmental problems? What is the responsibility of an artist to their community? How can artists work together creatively, and what is the role of audiences in art making and reception?

These are just a few of the questions that lie at the heart of Mel Chin’s extraordinary artistic practice. For over thirty years the artist has explored a diverse range of themes including: environmental injustice, history, cartography, and ecology. Revival Field, which Chin developed in 1991 and continues to revisit, was a pioneering experiment in green remediation. It has provided the artist with a grounding in environmental activism that has become a cornerstone of his practice through signature projects such as Operation Paydirt/Fundred Dollar Bill Project. That project was initiated in New Orleans in 2006 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a grassroots action to instigate solutions to the national crisis of lead contamination and its particular effects on children.

Chin often works collaboratively with artists and communities. KNOWMAD, a video game based on rug patterns of nomadic people facing cultural disappearance, was developed with software engineers. For Flint Fit, Chin collaborated with fashion designer Tracy Reese to turn plastic water bottles from Flint, Michigan into garments. The project premiered last year at the Queens Museum for a career survey exhibition of his work, and the result of the collaboration was a prototype for future actions that use fashion as a tool for social change.

Mel Chin, Unmoored, Times Square, 2018. Photo: Mel Chin Studio.

Mel Chin, Unmoored, Times Square, 2018. Photo: Mel Chin Studio.

As part of the survey at the Queens Museum, Chin also realized two new public works in Times Square, Manhattan, NY that addressed different aspects of climate change. Wake, a large public sculpture based on the USS Nightingale,designed and fabricated with faculty and students at UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio, spoke to the ways that the expanding economies of the past prefigure our current social and environmental issues. Unmoored, an interactive VR experience designed with the team at Microsoft HoloLens, visualized the future effects of rising sea levels in the city due to climate change.

The artist has shown his work at major institutions around the world including: the Fifth Biennial of Havana, Cuba; the Architectural Biennial in Venice, Italy; the Kwangju Biennale, Korea; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C. and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

“Mel Chin is an ideal speaker to bring to Boone,” said Jennie Carlisle, Director of the Art Department’s Smith Gallery and Co-Facilitator for the university’s Climate Stories Collaborative. “His work is deeply engaged with social and environmental sustainability, and he can provide our community with a deeper understanding of the ways that art catalyzes social change and participates in conversations that range across many disciplines.”

Chin’s talk is Tuesday, April 2, 6:30pm, Parkway Ballroom at the Plemmons Student Union and is the kick off event for the Climate Stories Collaborative’s annual showcase of climate engaged creative projects at the university, and is sponsored by: The Smith Gallery, The Office of Sustainability, The College of Fine and Applied Arts, The Honors College, and the Department of Sustainable Development.

About the Climate Stories Collaborative

The Climate Stories Collaborative is a learning community at Appalachian dedicated to growing the capacity of faculty and students to use a variety of creative media to tell the stories of those who are already affected by, and/or taking action to address, climate change. The collaborative supports arts-engaged research across curriculum and hosts programs and speakers throughout the year that build empathy and promote action. It’s signature event is the Climate Stories Showcase, which features student projects that creatively engage climate change issues. More information is available at:

About the Smith Gallery

The Smith Gallery is a vibrant contemporary art space, housed in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. It presents original and travelling exhibitions, features work by faculty and students at the university, and commissions daring new art in all of its forms. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM. In the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts, 731 Rivers Street, Boone, NC 28608. Contact Jennie Carlisle at for more information.