How Art Can Draw Attention to Climate Change in Critical Neighborhoods

Overtown, Miami, Florida —

Gabriel ‘GG’ Gimenez and Jordan Magid kicked off their newest venture, aptly titled Unconventional, with a special collaboration between two Miami-based nonprofit organizations, in order to address an urgent issue for the city of Miami: climate change.The Overtown Youth Center (OYC) and U-Doodle teamed up for this one-of-a-kind opportunity. Youth from the OYC connected personally with GG — an internationally recognized Miami-based artist who has built a reputation for his playful aesthetic and consistent use of his main character, Fado.

Although many Miami residents are familiar with the looming threat of climate change, youth in impoverished areas can lack access to knowledge and information regarding the issue. For schools in historically low-income areas like Overtown, it’s sometimes necessary to prioritize educational outcomes — as measured by statewide examinations — that determine their ranking according to state standards. Consistently poor rankings can cause a school to be underfunded and potentially shutdown. Therefore, underfunded schools like those in the Overtown area tend to focus heavily on preparation for statewide examinations, rather than pressing social issues that also impact the students’ lives — like climate change.

As part of the collaboration, GG sketched a mural that reflected the Overtown community and illustrated the perils of climate change. As an after school program, GG led a 4 hour long workshop with 15 middle and high school aged youth at the Overtown Youth Center. The workshop incorporated topics of discussion regarding climate change, bringing the issue to the forefront of students’ minds and giving them an opportunity to consider their responsibility in the wake of climate change.

Throughout the workshop and discussions, GG guided students to paint alongside him and complete the mural. The painting process used is known as paint-by-numbers and invites participants to fill in the blanks of a pre-sketched mural using colors that were preselected by GG. At the end of the workshop, students had the unique opportunity to step back and admire the fine artwork they produced as a group. Throughout the entire process, GG spoke to the participants one-on-one and introduced them to painting techniques, shared life strategies that helped him succeed as an artist, and brainstormed solutions to limit the impact of climate change on their community.

“Thank you for a wonderful day. The kids had a great time! The mural really is colorful & vibrant, it looks great. Thank you also for taking time to speak with our post high-school student, Kyre. I’m sure the information he received from you was priceless,” said Zelda Williams, OYC’s Community/Client Relations Coordinator.

Now, with the community-created mural as the backdrop for photos and activities in the OYC’s main gym, youth will always be reminded of their experience with GG and their responsibility as young leaders facing climate change.

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