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House of Solutions is fighting the climate crisis with drag queens and plant parties

August 5, 2019 Scott Enman
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A new cultural space on Governors Island is taking a different approach to fighting the global climate crisis: art and performance.

House of Solutions, located within a historic 19th-century building in Nolan Park, routinely hosts exhibits, workshops and residency programs with the goal of building solutions through innovative means. Its motto: “Where creativity sparks environmental action.”

The museum, on view through October in collaboration with the Climate Reality Project, is the brainchild of Tara DePorte, a Brooklyn resident and founder of the Human Impacts Institute, a Williamsburg nonprofit.

The organization, created in 2011 to generate new approaches to tackling social and environmental issues, has hosted exhibits in Berlin and Marseille and is located at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Williamsburg branch.

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“I was starting to see a lack of effective action on climate change,” DePorte told the Brooklyn Eagle. “There was a communication gap that we needed to experiment with how to fill.”

In an effort to fill that void, DePorte created HII, which uses levity, inspiration and creativity — rather than fear-mongering — to make the climate conversation “approachable, not apocalyptic.”

Tara DePorte (second from right) addresses the crowd at House of Solutions. Photo courtesy of House of Solutions

She said that she hoped to shift the conversation away from the direness of the climate crisis.

“We’re really trying to get people to speak creatively about solutions and not just the problem,” she said. “When we talk about solutions, particularly when it’s for the general public, we try to give different options.

“Not everyone wants to be a protestor. Maybe they would do it in very rare occasions, but that’s not their preferred method of engagement.”

One alternative option to demonstrating was House of Solutions. The concept was simple: host unique, fun and approachable events with the goal of bringing the average person — not just environmentalists and policy experts — into the climate discussion.

A woman writes down why climate change is important to her. Photo courtesy of House of Solutions

The opening party, dubbed “Climate is a Drag,” featured a climate-themed drag competition where participants performed skits about plastic pollution, the Green New Deal and becoming a climate activist.

“We need big, bold and beautiful climate action, and who’s better to communicate that then drag queens?” DePorte said.

On Friday, the museum hosted a dance party in a plant-filled room. It was aptly named “Dance Your Plants Off.” The music played mimicked the conversations that trees have between each other with their root structures.

Related: Make music by poking plants at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Flyers were also passed out with information on how people can help with reforestation efforts in New York City and around the world.

A child writes down why she believes plastic bags should be banned. Photo courtesy of House of Solutions

With an ongoing exercise called “Dear Tomorrow: Letters to the Future,” participants write to their future selves, children or grandchildren, about what they did personally to fight the climate crisis.

The prompt asks: “What did you do to ensure a safe and secure future?” Contributors are also encouraged to record how they think about climate change and what new personal actions they promise to take now.

The space will host a “Wild Walk,” an animal nature workshop and a lecture on the “Intersectionality of Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss, Human Justice and Resilience” on Saturday, Aug. 10, as part of their programming.

DePorte argued that even in a concrete jungle like Brooklyn — where access to nature can be restricted — it is still important to have conversations about how to solve the climate crisis.

“I love the idea of being able to create that harmony and make a city as big and crazy as Brooklyn — and also New York City — really work with our natural systems,” she said. “It’s such an amazing challenge. People treasure their access to nature here in a different way because it is special and limited.”

House of Solutions is on view through October. See a full list of events here.

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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