Mountains of Possibilities


by Beth Osnes
Inside the Greenhouse and Theatre & Dance Department, CU Boulder

I’m on the RTD Skyride bus coming home to Boulder and, like every time I come home to Colorado, I am blown away by the majesty and beauty of this place. I feel gratitude to live where I can watch the sun set over plates of the earth’s crust jutting out into the sky. I’m coming home from the Imagining America Conference (#ImaginingAmerica) for publically engaged scholarship in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Reflecting on that experience while looking at that big sky over the Rocky Mountains, I feel a kind of rising of my own yearning to collide what I gained from this gathering with the work I am privileged to do with Inside the Greenhouse (@ITG_Boulder), an initiative on the CU campus for creative climate communication. How can we make our students’ creative artifacts jut out farther into the public conversation? How can we engage our students more thoroughly into the exceptional landscape of our natural environment and the expanse of the public conversation surrounding climate issues? At Imagining America I feel like I gained some great ideas for rejuvenating our work and describing our aims with even more urgency and purpose.

One of my favorite sessions of the conference (and the one that had the most direct relevance to the work I do) was entitled “Our Changing Climate” (#ourchangingclimate) and was presented by N. Claire Napawan, Sheryl-Ann Simpson, and Brett Snyder, all professors at UC Davis. They presented on a participatory environmental design project that engages San Francisco Bay Area communities with issues of climate change by integrating youth perspectives with social media. At one point we were sent out in groups to explore aspects of community resilience we spotted on the campus of UW Milwaukee. I loved their approach to participatory urbanism that engages non-designers in thinking about the design for their city. Their focus on engaging youth voices in city resilience planning is related to my work using performance towards the same aim.

Night has fallen in the fifty minutes it took to get from the airport to Boulder. I can’t see our mountains anymore, but I know they are there. Although each of us from Imaging America has returned to our respective homes, we hold the knowledge that we are part of a vibrant community of artists, designers, and publicly engaged scholars rejuvenated in imagining what America can be and how our roles in higher education can give expression to that dream. The bus driver just called my stop. Chances are I’ll make it home in time for dinner.

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