From Outputs to Outcomes – Making the Shift

For museums to have meaningful impacts on the cultural problem of climate change, they will need to shift from a focus on outputs to outcomes. (Douglas Worts commenting on Joy Davis’ recent post Agentic Professionals: How individual museum workers can champion climate justice)

So what might a shift to outcomes-based program evaluation look like?

In 2013 I* had the privilege of working with the Ontario Museum Association in association with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to develop an Outcomes-Based Program Planning & Evaluation Webinar and Workbook. These materials are online and available free of charge. Much of the following post is drawn from these resources.

What is Outcomes-Based Planning & Evaluation (OBPE)?

Outcomes-Based Program Evaluation is a systematic way to plan user-centered programs and to measure whether they have achieved their goals. OBPE goes beyond documenting what you did and measures what difference you made in the life of your audience. How has your audience changed?


The mission of the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice is to mobilize and support Canadian museum workers and their organizations in building public awareness, mitigation and resilience in response to climate change. Ultimately, we hope the work of the Coalition will have an impact not only on museum workers and their organizations but also on their publics, the citizens of Canada and the world.

Planning for and evaluating the outcomes of museum programs and exhibits helps us to focus on and document the changes we want to see – public awareness, mitigation and resilience in response to climate change.

Being able to express and demonstrate what difference museums’ climate justice programs and exhibits might and do make is invaluable. Why?

  1. Funds for museums are decreasing.

  2. Community needs are increasing.

Previous evaluation measures focused on money, numbers of people served and on client satisfaction . These are outputs. These measures don’t really assess the impact of programs and exhibits on museum & cultural heritage audiences. We need to know if our efforts are making a difference in the lives of our citizens – and, if they are, to be able to share those results with others in a meaningful way. We need to know the outcomes and impacts.

See National Museums Liverpool – Making a Difference

So what are the components of OBPE?


Inputs – The materials and resources that the program uses in its activities. These are often easy to identify and are common to many organizations and programs. For example: equipment, staff, facilities, standards (Standards for Community Museums in Ontario), information, etc.

Activities – These are the tasks, or processes, that the program undertakes with/to the audience in order to meet the audience’s needs; for example, recruiting participants, promoting the program, networking, training. Note that when identifying the activities in a program, the focus is still pretty much on the organization or program itself, not on changes in the audience.

Outputs – These are the most immediate direct products or results of your program. Program outputs are typically measured in numbers. For example, the number of  … people who participated, classes who completed a program, materials developed, workshops given, supplies consumed, web site hits, etc. Outputs create the potential for outcomes to occur

OutcomesThese are changes that occur to people, organizations and communities as a result of your program. These changes, or outcomes, are usually expressed in terms of:

  • Knowledge and skills
  • Behaviours
  • Values, conditions and status

Impact – This describes your vision of a preferred future and underlines why the project is important. It refers to the longer-term change that you hope your project will help create or to which your project may contribute.

Photo by Caroline Grondin, Upsplash
Photo by Caroline Grondin, Upsplash

Splash & Ripple

Imagine your program is like a rock thrown into a pond. Your program makes a splash. The different outcomes measured are the ripples.

Inputs are like the person & the rock.

Activities are like dropping the rock.

Outputs are like creating the splash.

The ripples spreading from the splash are like your Outcomes,

that later become your Impacts.

The edge of the pond represents the Situation.

(Plan:Net Limited & Stratecona Research Group 2008)

In my next post, I’ll focus on measuring outcomes.

In the meantime, check out these Free Resources …

Betts, Tracy. “The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide.” idealware. idealware. October 2011.

Diamond, Judy, Jessica J. Luke, and David H. Uttal. Practical Evaluation Guide: Tool for Museums and Other Informal Educational Settings. Second. Lanham: AltaMira Press, 2009.

Indiana University IUPUI & Institute for Museum & Library Services. What is Outcomes Based Planning & Evaluation? IMLS. 2006-2010.

McNamara, Carter. Basic Guide to Outcomes-Based Evaluation for Nonprofit Organizations with Very Limited Resources.

Museums Association of Saskatchewan. Evaluation Workbook: A Basic Understanding of the Program Outcome Evaluation Model. Regina: Museums Association of Saskatchewan, 1999.

Patton, Michael Quinn. Utilization-Focused Evaluation: The New Century Text. 3rd. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1997.

Plan:Net Limited & Stratecona Research Group. “Splash & Ripple: Using Outcomes to Design & Manage Community Activities.” Plan:Net. PLAN:NET LIMITED. 2008.

Plan:Net Limited. “Splash & Ripple.” Health Canada. n.d.

Thomson, Gareth, and Jenn Hoffman. “Measuring the Success of Environmental Education Programs.Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society.

*I am M. Christine Castle, PhD, a Canadian museum educator and consultant and a member of the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice Advisory Group. More info on me here.

One Person Can Make A Difference – Building the Coastal Connections Temporary Exhibit at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site [Case Story]

This week’s Guest Post is by Brooke Lees, Curator, Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, Richmond, B.C. Brooke shares the story of how an historic site can mount a meaningful exhibit about the impact of climate change on our oceans with little money but many committed community partners.

The Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site sits on the picturesque Steveston waterfront in Richmond, BC. The site is owned and operated by the City of Richmond, and a small team of dedicated staff are working with partners to complete a multi-phased restoration of the site’s cultural landscape and 14 heritage buildings. Each year, new permanent exhibits open to the public that focus on maritime heritage and the social and living conditions of the multicultural people who worked on the waterfront. Exhibit themes focus on telling the stories of the past, interpreting them as relevant to the present, and commenting on implications for the future.

Exhibit panels - credit Joel Baziuk
Exhibit panels – credit Joel Baziuk

The new temporary exhibit, “Our Coastal Connection,” at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site explores our historic ties to our local rivers and west coast environments, and how this has sparked the imagination of many local groups working to celebrate and protect our waters for the future. Over 20 groups are profiled within the exhibit, all of which have dedicated remarkable efforts in areas of water conservation, education, awareness, recycling and entrepreneurship.

The exhibit started with the hope of spreading awareness about the current state of our oceans.

As we go about our daily activities, we forget that our collective actions on land are affecting ecosystems far off shore and out of our direct line of sight,” said Brooke Lees, curator of the exhibit. “A staggering amount of plastic is finding its way into our global oceans every year – 8 million metric tons, which is equivalent in weight to 20,000 fully loaded 747 airplanes. As you can imagine, this is wreaking havoc on marine life and ocean environments. This problem is of course also negatively impacting fish stocks – something vital to our fishing community and the very foundation of the historic fishing village of Steveston.”

“The exhibit outlines the issues, and showcases water stewardship and educational initiatives that began with the efforts of local individuals. Many local people are banding together to implement creative solutions to one of the greatest problems of our time – and this is truly inspiring. These people deserve to be highlighted, and I’m hopeful that their work will inspire others to remember that one person can make a difference, and that every effort at home and in the community can have far reaching impacts.”

Exhibit displays - credit Joel Baziuk
Exhibit displays – credit Joel Baziuk

Although permanent exhibits at Britannia are funded through capital projects, there is no annual budget for temporary exhibits, maintenance or updates.

“In order to continue providing visitors with the latest research and new engaging relevant topics, we have to get creative,” says Brooke. “We work closely with partner groups that provide us with in-kind donations and we do our own research, writing, design and installation.”

Our Coastal Connection was researched, designed and installed with a budget of only $2,000.

“We had the opportunity to work with many enthusiastic people who felt compelled to share their stories and photographs, donate objects for display and provide their research for use in the exhibit.” Brooke explained. “It was a wonderful community effort, and the resulting exhibit is something we are all extremely proud of.”

An open house held on Saturday, June 3 launched the exhibit, with over 250 people in attendance. Visitors explored the exhibit, and met representatives from the Emerald Sea Protection Society, Fraser Riverkeeper and the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation. These exhibit partner groups captured visitors’ unique water stories, challenged them to be water champions, showed them what’s lurking in the depths under the waves, and gave them a sneak preview of cool new technologies soon to be released.

Exhibit demonstrations - credit Joel Baziuk
Exhibit demonstrations – credit Joel Baziuk

The exhibit open house was engaging, interactive and extremely well received. Visitors were fascinated with the photographs and information demonstrating the amount of plastic affecting our oceans  – many learning about this environmental crisis for the first time. Visitors left the exhibit with a greater understanding of current marine conservation issues, and were inspired to make changes at home to incorporate ‘greener’ habits in their daily routines.

“These ‘aha’ moments are what we are considering a success in terms of exhibit impact,” says Brooke. “And many of our visitors are recording their feelings in our exhibit guest book, complete with pledges of what they promise to do to help.”

Exhibit activity - credit Joel Baziuk
Exhibit activity – credit Joel Baziuk

Our Coastal Connection will be in place for one year, and will reach an audience of over 120,000 visitors to the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site. Volunteers and staff are excited to welcome the public to the new exhibit, and to inspire people to remember why we love our waters and what we can do to keep our rivers and oceans clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.

For more information about the exhibit, visit or contact or 604-238-8050. Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site is located at 5180 Westwater Drive in Richmond BC.


Meeting the LEED Gold Standard – Markham Museum Collections Building [Case Study]

*Guest Post by Cathy Molloy, Director of Markham Museum, and an Ontario Museum Association Board member.

Completed in 2011, the Markham Museum Collections Building was built as an exhibition hall and storage area for artifacts and archival material. This remarkable building serves as the gateway to the Museum.


Markham Museum connects the history of Markham to today’s new ‘settlers’ by examining our environment and the tools we use to adapt to our changing world. The 25-acre Museum site offers: exhibits, school programs, public programs and events, private event venues and research facilities.

A little background – the Museum is owned and operated by the City of Markham in Ontario, Canada. Markham has an active Sustainability Office . All City facilities are ‘waste free’. Even Museum events are ‘waste free,’ and all vendors and visitors are to use only compostable or recyclable materials.

The Museum also has several gardens and features built with partners, such as native plant gardens, waterless gardens and a windmill to aerate the storm retention pond at the back of the site. Programming at Markham museum is very much focused on sustainability and shared human technologies such as pottery, textile working and food production. So, it was natural that our collection building was designed to fulfill LEED requirements.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design® (LEED) is a rating system that is recognized as the international mark of excellence for green building in over 160 countries. Since 2002, the Canada Green Building Council® (CaGBC) and LEED Canada have been redefining the buildings and communities where Canadians live, work and learn.

The certification program focuses primarily on new, commercial-building projects and based upon a points system. The more points you earn, the higher your rating. Based on the number of points achieved, a project then receives one of four LEED rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. LEED-certified buildings are resource efficient. They use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Markham Museum met LEED Gold qualification by meeting a number of standards, including:

  • Alternate Transportation
  • Reflective Roof
  • Water Reduction
  • Construction Materials
  • Mechanical Systems
  • Healthy Workplace

Alternate Transportation

The Markham Museum Collections Building is located within close proximity to multiple public transit routes, (Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Government of Ontario (GO) trains and buses, York Region Transit and others.) In addition to providing bike racks for visitors and employees, the City of Markham encourages carpooling by providing designated carpool spaces close to the main entrance and is an active member of Smart Commute Markham – Richmond Hill.

Reflective Roof

To reduce the impact on the surrounding environment,highly reflective roof materials were selected. The reflective materials provide highly reflective surfaces that will assist in reducing energy demand in the summer and reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect.

Water Reduction

To reduce the potable water demand of the Markham Museum Collections Building, dual flush, 6/4.2L flush water closets, waterless urinals and 1.9 LPM faucets have been provided in public washrooms. As well, the staff shower features a 5.7 LPM shower head. These measures have contributed to a potable water reduction of over 40% against baseline conditions.

Flush choice on toilets

In addition to these measures a 20,000L rain water system for water closet flushing has been installed to greater reduce the potable water demand of the building.

Collectively these installed measures have reduced the water demand of Markham Museum Collections Building 92.72%, saving a total of 276,253L per year against a standard baseline.

Construction Materials

Markham is an ideal location within Southern Ontario to source many construction materials manufactured and extracted within 800 km of the site. These regional materials, such as concrete, reinforcing and structural steel, and landscaping materials account for 30.71% of the materials used to construct and finish the Markham Museum Collections Building.

recycled materials:concrete:steel

Also, recycled materials account for 11.32% of all materials, and of the waste generated during construction and demolition, 88.9% was diverted from landfill.

Mechanical Systems

The Markham Museum Collections Building incorporated a Geothermal Heat Exchange System. This system uses a CFC/HCFC free refrigerant that is pumped through a series of pipes 110m below ground. Once preheated by the earth, the refrigerant is used to preheat the high efficiency water boilers used to supply hot water to the building’s heating coils and heat pumps.

Mechanical Systems

These systems and other energy efficient measures have resulted in an energy cost savings of 56.28% against the base building design.

Healthy workplace

Special emphasis was placed on creating a healthy indoor environment for the current and future employees of the Markham Museum Collections Building. Construction practices that consider indoor air quality were put into place and monitored throughout. This included using only low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) products to reduce and eliminate harmful off-gassed pollutants.

The Town has also implemented a Green Housekeeping Policy that includes environmentally friendly cleaning methods and cleaning product requirements.


Embracing Change: Museums and Activism

Guest Post by Naomi Grattan. Naomi teaches museum management for the University of Calgary and the Alberta Museums Association.


The concept of activist museums emerged as one of the strongest themes at MuseumNext, 2016, a global conference on the future of museums. Created in 2009, according to its founder Jim Richardson, “MuseumNext came out the shifting technological landscape of the first decade of the 21st century. Digital media was [sic] transforming society and shifting audience expectations and we saw that museums needed to embrace change, or risk extinction” (MuseumNext, 2016, section 1). He explained that

delegates are interested in the power that cultural institutions have to inform the public about challenging issues, how museums add to the political power of a city and how we can ensure that culture is open to all (MuseumNext, 2016, section 7).

A move to an activist position is almost a complete reversal of the traditional museum model in which an institutional voice of authority was held up as the ideal (Anderson, 2012, p. 3). Janes (2009) described this as “authoritative neutrality” (p. 59) and exposed the fallacy at the heart of it: when museums avoid taking risks because they might antagonize sponsors or corporate partners, they are, in effect taking a position in line with corporate values and beliefs, and is therefore not neutral.

Janes (2009) went on to acknowledge that moving beyond the so-called “neutral” position “requires judgement and risk-taking, and the potential for both enhancing the public good, or abusing it, lie dormant in every opportunity” (p. 59). In other words, it is impossible to take a neutral position when presenting topics and objects to the public, so transparency, clear values and careful planning become critical. An activist model is a direct way to align with a specific sector or community, by taking a clear stand on an issue and actively working with community towards a shared outcome. Read more from Janes in his blog post The Elephant in the Room.

Activist Museums & Groups

The Natural History Museum (Natural History Museum, n.d., About), a project of Not an Alternative (a New York based non-profit), strives to affect public discourse through art, activism and theory and is a good example of an activist museum. Created in 2014, the Natural History Museum is a mobile museum that takes a position on environmental science, making a point of examining the socio-political forces that shape nature. In partnership with other museums, it works to:

reframe the past to save the future . . . [by] partnering with museums to develop programs that help make the subjects of science and natural history more relevant to the day to day lives of the communities they serve . . .[its] programs pick up where traditional exhibits leave off, by connecting static displays to pressing contemporary concerns and world events. (Natural History Museum, n.d., About)

Among its activities, the Natural History Museum wrote an “Open letter to museums from members of the scientific community,” signed by 148 scientists. It is significant to note that in January 2016 David Koch stepped down from the board of the American Museum of Natural History, although he remains on the advisory board of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (Yuhas, 2016, para. 1).

The rise of activist museums intersects with the rise of other activist groups also focused on museums, such as Liberate Tate, which calls specifically on the U.K.’s Tate Museum  to take a leadership role in society on the global issue of climate change by abandoning its sponsorship support from the oil company British Petroleum (BP).

There are many models for the ways in which museums can become more connected to community—whether through community building, co-creation, participation, or activism—but the theme is clear: museums must operate in relationship to the world in which they exist.


Anderson, G. (Ed.). (2012). Reinventing the museum: The evolving conversation on the paradigm shift. (2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: AltaMira.

Janes, R. (2009). Museums in a troubled world. Renewal, irrelevance, or collapse? Oxon, UK: Routledge.

MuseumNext. (2016, July 4). A short interview with MuseumNext founder Jim Richardson. Public Art Magazine Korea. Retrieved from

Natural History Museum, the. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from

Natural History Museum, the. (2015, March 24). An open letter to museums from members of the scientific community. Retrieved from

Yuhas, A. (2016, January 21). David Koch steps down from board of New York science museum. The Guardian. Retrieved from

*Naomi Grattan has worked in and around museums for most of the last 17 years, sontributing to four cultural capital projects, and recently completing her MA in Leadership at Royal Roads University, which focused on museum leadership development for the sector in partnership with the Canadian Museums Association.  Her thesis is available online here. She teaches museum management for the University of Calgary and the Alberta Museums Association. You can reach her at:


Saskatchewan’s Ecomuseums, Planetary Wellbeing, and Climate Justice – A Symposium Report

Guest post by Douglas Worts, a culture & sustainability specialist with WorldViews Consulting, in Toronto, Canada.

In the late 1960s, two innovators in France’s cultural world devised a novel concept that would turn the notion of ‘museum’ on its head.  If traditional museums are based on centripetal forces that bring together cultural objects, history and people into a single site, then George Rivière and Hugues de Varine’s proposal for a centrifugal variation was revolutionary.

Specifically, they imagined a museum that consisted of a territory, a population, collective memory, elders, heritage and special sites, all held in dynamic relationship through centrifugal forces.

Essentially this approach argued for museums that were woven into the fabric of community as well as the lives of individuals, where people, museum and city/town are one. Theirs was a living, integrated approach to ‘the place of the muses’, as opposed to an institutionalized approach to culture. The name given to this new approach to museums was ‘ecomuseum’.

Over the past 50 years, experiments and variations on the ecomuseum theme have been explored around the world (see Peter Davis, Ecomuseums: A Sense of Place – 2nd Edition) – in both rural and urban settings. Some ecomuseums have reinvigorated entire regions – socially, environmentally, culturally, economically. Some of these experiments have become living-heritage sites that are largely geared to tourism.  However,

the ecomuseums most interesting to me have been developed through the work of consciously engaged communities that have roots in heritage, a commitment to the wellbeing of the present and which collectively generate a vision of the future. It is within this context that consideration of climate change, and its negative affect on planetary wellbeing becomes a powerful force.

Glenn Sutter, a curator of human ecology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, has been given a mandate to foster ‘community-engaged museums’ (aka ecomuseums) across this prairie province of Canada. In collaboration with the Saskatchewan Museums Association and Heritage Saskatchewan, many efforts are being made to encourage communities themselves to form ecomuseums that will meet their local needs – culturally, socially, economically and environmentally.

In April of 2017, a symposium was organized in Regina to bring people together from many fledgling ecomuseums across the province.  Its purpose was to strengthen the growing network, to share stories and to acquire new tools. Veteran museum consultant and Canadian innovator of ecomuseums, René Rivard, provided a keynote address that reflected on the excitement and impacts of ecomuseums around the world. (René Rivard is also a member of the CMCJ Advisory Group.) Many local people contributed stories about their communities and the ecomuseums with which they are involved.

I was invited to provide a day-long training workshop – which I called “Planning for Cultural Relevance”.  The core of the day revolved around an introduction to two planning tools, called Compass and Pyramid, developed by sustainability consultant, educator and planner, Alan AtKisson – using the fictitious community of Greenburg.

Although this workshop was not focused on ‘climate change’ specifically, it includes processes and concepts that are relevant to those involved in the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice network.

Climate change is one of many challenging outcomes that spring from the shifting cultural realities of our day, combined with our complex globalized world, and all within the biological limits of the Earth’s biosphere. As museums strive to address climate change it is vital to exam and work with the systems environment that is our current reality.

Such an approach necessitates that museums develop and utilize a nontraditional set of processes for:

  • understanding the needs and opportunities of individuals, communities, organizations and the natural environment;
  • generating strategies for active public engagement;
  • formulating a commonly held vision of a future that is possible and sustainable;
  • measuring impacts and changes as a result of humanity’s growth and development.

There remains enormous untapped potential for museums to facilitate cultural wellbeing and cultural impacts across our world.

* Douglas Worts is a culture & sustainability specialist with WorldViews Consulting, in Toronto, Canada. Douglas approaches culture broadly, as ‘how we live our lives’, seeing museums as potential facilitators in forging an emerging ‘culture of sustainability’.  His professional work combines a 35+-year career in museums with over two decades exploring how culture shapes and directs the prospects for global human sustainability. Within Douglas’ museum career, experimental exhibits and audience research, coupled with organizational design and change management, have been of central importance. Systems-thinking is fundamental within his work. Douglas has published, taught and lectured widely on his work.

Linking Cultural Museums & Climate Justice at the AAM Conference

Guest Post by Julieanne Fontana, Public Humanities Master’s Program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, USA*

The floodwaters from the second (almost) 100-year flood event in the past 16 months were just receding in St. Louis as a group of about 75 museum professionals gathered on May 8, 2017 at the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri to talk about “Linking Cultural Museums and Environmental Justice.”

I had the honor of being one of the presenters as a part of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience’s Environmental Justice Network, a group of about 15 culture sites from around the world that are all interested in advancing climate and environmental justice conversations through cultural heritage. Braden Paynter, facilitator of the Environmental Justice Network, introduced the concept that cultural institutions can be activists, and each of my co-panelists and I shared case studies from our work to stimulate discussions and ideas.

Dr. Rosa Cabrera, Director of the Rafael Cintron Ortiz Latino Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, explained how to synthesize environmental sustainability, cultural diversity, and social justice through “The Heritage Garden.

Kerry Olson, Chief of Interpretation at Santa Monica National Recreation Area outside of Los Angeles, shared LA Ranger Troca” as a tool to connect nature and urban neighborhoods.

I added my own insights on how community concerns can combine social and environmental activism based on my work with UPP Arts, a grassroots nonprofit that communicates environmental stewardship through art-making. These examples set the framework for group discussions that asked each attendee to relate environmental and climate justice to their own work and their institution’s missions.

At UPP Art’s 10th Urban Pond Procession on May 13, 2017, community members used artistic assets to build stewardship of our shared environment, especially at Mashapaug Pond in Providence, RI (in background).

Climate Conversations Need to Start with Community Assets and Needs

Starting a community dialogue on climate change and environmental justice is all about beginning from a relevant vantage point. For the Environmental Justice Network, that means leading with community assets and needs and avoiding buzzwords like “sustainability” that are ambiguous and may not resonate with people’s daily lives.

We started the participatory part of our session by asking everyone to find photos on their smartphones that told a story about cultural and environmental sustainability. These photos started group discussions about the environmental causes of cultural concerns, like how increased Mississippi River flooding threatens neighborhoods and city infrastructure, and got us all thinking about ways to jointly address both.

After the introduction activity, we asked participants to practice framing environmental discussions beginning with community assets and needs. The questions below can help us all continue to consider these ideas and themes:

Dig into your community and create an interpretive theme:

  • What are the needs and assets of a community that you work with or your own community?

  • How can some of these needs and assets be connected to environmental and climate issues to create a project or public dialogue theme?

Panelist Dr. Rosa Cabrera expanded on these questions using her own work on the Environmental & Climate Justice Dialogue Guide. Community needs are often tangible, like clean water and livable cities, but assets are often intangible and linked to culture. For example, many Latino immigrants in Chicago stop hanging clothes to dry to fit in with American neighbors, but the cultural practice of using clotheslines can help reduce energy use.

Participants from natural history, art, science, and history museums shared programs in their own institutions, and many are already beginning to link their missions to environmental and climate themes.  

Main Takeaways

The session lasted just an hour and a half, but that was enough time to get us all making new connections! My main takeaways – and the ones I want to share with you are:

  1. Many of our socially-expressed problems have environmental roots. We need to link social and environmental justice movements to be effective activists.

  2. Be an asset to your community. If buzzwords like sustainability or climate change are creating barriers, be creative and use the institution’s mission to approach these concerns from non-environmental entry points.

  3. Keeping building a network of ideas and share with others. This conversation is a starting point!

* Julieanne Fontana is a student in the Public Humanities Master’s Program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she is studying the intersection of public history and environmental justice. Julieanne currently works as a Climate Heritage Intern with US/ICOMOS and as a Communications Assistant for UPP Arts, an arts-based environmental nonprofit. She has previous experience working with the US National Park Service and with multiple historic sites in New England.

Art & Sustainable Energy at the Woodstock Art Gallery [Case Study]

Guest Post by Roberta Grosland, Head of Collections, Woodstock Art Gallery*

The Art of Sustainable Energy really started in 2011 when the Woodstock Art Gallery moved into our new building …

Our new neighbours, at what was then Woodstock Hydro, reached out to us to help them organize a logo design contest to promote their solar energy program.

We were the ideal partners, we not only knew a great deal about art, we also had the best view in the City of Hydro’s new solar panels.

The kids that entered the contest were so enthusiastic about the project and passionate about the environment, it inspired the Gallery’s Head of Education, Stephanie Porter, and me to begin to plan a permanent collection exhibition and school program that would examine some of the issues facing the environment.

Over the next few years, the Gallery continued to partner with Woodstock Hydro.  Together, Oxford County and Woodstock Hydro had set a 100% renewable energy target of 2050To reach that goal, Oxford County and Woodstock Hydro needed both a space and a way of actively engaging the public and that is where again, the Woodstock Art Gallery could help. 

Through the summer of 2015, photographs by students from the Environmental Visual Communication Program at Fleming College, under the direction of Neil Ever Osborne, were displayed in our Community Gallery.  Jay Heman and his team from Woodstock Hydro, could often be found in the gallery sharing information about local sources of renewable energy. And, even when they were not there, information panels and audio visual displays encouraged our visitors to learn more about this exciting goal.

By 2015, the Gallery had undergone renovations and for the first time we had exhibition areas dedicated to permanent collection exhibitions.  Finally, in January 2016, Observations in the Glass House, the exhibit that Stephanie and I had been planning for 5 years opened.  The exhibit was generously sponsored by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada. It was a good fit as it reflected Toyota’s commitment to the environment.  The permanent collection works that made up Observations from the Glass House spanned half a century, eight artists and a variety of media.  Some pieces celebrated the beauty of nature, other mourned the toll humans inflict on both the environment and other species that share our world. 

Woodstock AG- 2016-WAGFebruaryOpening(069of069)
Roberta leading a tour of Observations in the Glass House. Courtesy Woodstock Art Gallery.

Stephanie was heavily involved in the planning and choice of works as it was important that the exhibit not only work as an art exhibit but that it functioned as a jumping off point for, The Art of Sustainable Energy, a school program for grade 5 and 6 students sponsored by Oxford County.  The students who participated in the program examined the art in the exhibit and discussed the environmental issue the artists raised.  They then played games that encouraged them to think about how they could make a difference; for example, through re-cycling.  Jay Heman, now director of strategic initiatives for Oxford County, gave each of the classes a PowerPoint presentation about renewable energy and then allowed the students to conduct a hands-on exploration of a working solar panel.

We still have the best view in the City of what are now Hydro One’s solar panels. All the visiting students got to see those solar panels along with Jay’s strategically parked, electric car! 

Oxford County not only loaned us Jay for each of the programs but also underwrote the transportation costs for the classes to visit the Gallery.

Student participants learned more about sustainable energy and Oxford County’s renewable energy target. But, perhaps just as importantly,

students discovered that art can not only challenge us to question what we see around us but can also challenge us to make a difference in our communities and in our world.

*Roberta Grosland is the Head of Collections at the Woodstock Art Gallery in Ontario, Canada. Her interest in art and art galleries started when her mother snuck her in to The Guggenheim Museum at age 4.  She went on to obtain a BA and a MA in Fine Art History from the University of Toronto. After moving to Kitchener, Ontario her career path swerved into the world of museums and living history.  She was a costumed historical interpreter first at Doon Heritage Crossroads and then at the Joseph Schneider Haus Museum where she went on to hold a variety of positions.  Since 2008, Roberta has worked at the Woodstock Art Gallery managing the Gallery’s permanent collection and curating permanent collection exhibitions.