Enhancing the “Our People, Our Climate program


This project began with creation of a curriculum for a synchronous online course on the visualization of climate change in Arctic, mid-latitude as well as tropical locations, namely Canada (Nunavut), Honduras, Mexico, Colombia and the United States (Duluth, MN). Local partner organizations include @1860 Winnipeg Arts incubator, the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative/Dorset Fine Arts (WBEC) (Toronto and Kinngait, Canada), GRULAC Junior (The Latin American and Caribbean Regional Youth Group) and the Gallery on 603 Project (Northwestern Ontario, Canada). 

This hemispheric dialogue was piloted through synchronous Zoom meetings with a small group of Indigenous, Honduran and Colombian students from January-March 2021, the design and testing of an incubator for arts entrepreneurship started in Winnipeg in November 2021.


@1860 Winnipeg serves as the physical location for a number digital, virtual and in-person education initiatives aimed at using the arts and creative activities to build economic capacity among First Nations, Inuit and Metis youth (15-25 years of age) in Canada, and to connect these individuals with global creative peers through virtual projects and skills-based training. 

OPOC has previously been offered online and in person, in various iterations and lengths, in collaboration with ilinniapaa Skills Development Centre in Iqaluit, NU (2020,2021), with Colegio Hacienda Los Alcaparros in Bogota, Colombia (2022), with Northern Inclusion in Winnipeg (2021), and @1860 Winnipeg with the Canada Council for the Arts in 2022. This year, the program is again being offered in partnership with the United Nations Environmental Programme on March 7, 2023. This year’s @1860 Winnipeg participation is funded with support from the Manitoba Arts Council.

@1860 has been instrumental in promoting the “Our People, Our Climate” initiative and has made it one of its key “hub” programs (see http://niriqatiginnga.ca/hubs/). It constitutes @1860 Winnipeg’s effort to connect Canadian Inuit, Metis and First Nations youth with global educational partner organizations and student peers from diverse populations in North America, South American, Africa and Europe. Partner organizations have included the West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative/Dorset Fine Arts (WBEC) (Toronto and Kinngait, Canada), and GRULAC Junior (The Latin American and Caribbean Regional Youth Group). The OPOC program has been developed with partner universities in the United States, particularly the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (Dr. Olaf Kuhlke) and the University of St. Thomas (Dr. Alec Johnson). 

The program will engage high-school students and young adults in learning about two interrelated components: a) climate change evidence and visualization, utilizing and contributing to the Climate Visuals framework (https://climatevisuals.org/), and b) professional photography/videography. 

Key Goals

Students will learn about existing evidence for climate change in different biomes across the globe, utilize the key principles of visualizing climate change, and practice how to use photography and documentary filmmaking to collect evidence of climate change in their communities, ultimately creating professional photography and short 15-minute documentary films. 

Previous iterations of this program have led to Inuit and Caucasian students from Pond Inlet, Iqaluit, and Clyde River creating photography and film that was included in three global exhibits in 2021, 2022, and 2023: 

  1. OPOC students created the feature film installation for the “The Word for World is Forest” Exhibit at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, Scotland. This exhibition ran parallel to the COP 26 Summit in November 2021, and constituted part of the cultural programming for delegates at this event. The work lives on in a digital archive that can be accessed at this link: 
  1. The Inuit Art Exhibit entitled “Fifty Shapes of Prey” at Museum Cerny in Bern, Switerland. The images and film from the above CCA exhibit were included in this curated exhibit from September 2021 to February 2022.
  1. The above exhibit of Museum Cerny has now become a traveling exhibition currenly located at the National Museum of Liechtenstein in Vaduz. 

These efforts have given youth from the Canadian North an opportunity to produce artistic work that has been included in international museums and shows, and our current grant proposal seeks to expand this work by collaborating with the @1860 Winnipeg Arts team in Winnipeg, MB. 

Objectives and Expected Outcomes:

This project will tailor the existing OPOC curriculum to offer an intensive, in person version of this course for Metis, Inuit and First Nations Youth from Nunavut, Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario in Summer 2023, 

The program will engage students in learning about two interrelated components: a) climate change evidence and visualization (Hirji 2017, Moser 1016), utilizing and contributing to the Climate Visuals framework (https://climatevisuals.org/), and b) professional photography/videography. Students will learn about existing evidence for climate change in different biomes across the globe (Slovic 2016), utilize the key principles of visualizing climate change, and practice how to use photography and documentary filmmaking to collect evidence of climate change in their communities, ultimately creating professional photography and short 3-minute documentary films.

The photography/videography components of this class have also been piloted and tested over the course of three years with Canadian youth as a part of a 2018-2021 United States National Science Foundation grant (Award #1758814), and the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Greenhouse grant. The purpose of this new iteration is to extend and adapt the original Arctic focus of climate change visualization work to urban environments such as Winnipeg, MB. 

Expected Outcomes: 

  • Students from Winnipeg will be learning together about climate change visualization and storytelling, in addition to introductory curation and exhibition at a 5-day in-person workshop. 
  • The visual results of the workshop will be shared with the UN Environmental Program’s Youth Engagement and Training Initiative (YETI) for global distribution.
  • The visual results of the workshop will be shared at a local exhibit in Winnipeg in Fall 2023, after the images and film have been processed by the course instructors. 

Justification and link to UN SDGs:

This project focuses primarily but not exclusively on UN Sustainable Development Goals 12, 13 and 17. 

Goal 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. This project addresses how unsustainable energy consumption and production patterns have produced catastrophic effects on climate and environment in the regions addressed in this proposal (Boztas 2017). Previous work informing this proposal, for example, has shown that Inuit life in the Arctic is fundamentally impacted by imported foods and especially pre-packaged meals. Historically, the majority of foods consumed in Inuit communities consisted of locally hunted animals, but since the 1960s, a large influx of subsidized “Southern Foods” (from packaged meals to fast food to canned sodas) has not only disrupted the low-carbohydrate traditional diet, shifted food priorities and spiked diabetes rates,  but also increased the influx of plastic waste in the Arctic. For the purposes of this project, the conversation about the impact of consumption on climate change will be expanded to a hemispheric dialogue. Students will specifically focus on the problem of food products, changes in packaging and hygiene standards and resultant issues of waste, waste disposal, lack of recycling and the impacts this has on local watersheds and ecosystems.

13 – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. This project explicitly engages with a key problem in combating climate change: Providing convincing evidence to people that engages them to a) recognize climate change and real and relevant and b) actually change their own behavior so that it has a meaningful individual and cumulative impact on climate change (Potter 2012, Venkatraman et al 2015). Students will learn about the scientific work on climate change and climate change visualization, to recognize and create convincing visual documentation that might actually change their peers’ and their societies’ behavior. Students will also contribute this imagery to large global institutions such as the United Nations and be active producers of globally recognized visual evidence.

17 – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. This project brings together high-school students from the Canadian Arctic, Mexico, Honduras and Colombia through international online dialogue, to collectively produce professional imagery and video on climate change visualization. The Latin American and Caribbean Regional Youth Group (GRULAC Junior) is a working, discussion, negotiation and preparation group for the active participation of young people from Latin American and Caribbean countries on issues related to the environment and sustainable development, and they are coming together here with youth from the Canadian Arctic to learn together, create evidence together and to produce powerful imagery that will have an opportunity to influence policy and be seen globally.

As such, we are creating a platform here for developing global partnerships among youth across hemispheres and from different climate regimes that will hopefully result in future activism and that provides a practice platform to participate in global dialogue. The project is decidedly applied in focus, in that the main outcome is meant to be exactly the facilitation of global youth dialogue across countries, ecosystems and hemispheres, to contribute to this SDG. 

Interdisciplinary Scope of the Project:

This project is a true STEAM project in that it engages the traditional STEM disciplines with the arts, in this case, the arts of photography and filmmaking. Part One of the course engages students with key elements and evidence of climate science, from discussion about rises in global average temperatures to CO2 levels to regionally specific evidence of climate change from the Arctic, Mexico, Honduras and Colombia. 

Part Two of the course then highlights the principles of the visualization of climate change as propagated through the Climate Visuals framework (https://climatevisuals.org/) and other visualization principles developed by climate communication scholars, specifically the work of Canadian scholar Stephen Sheppard at the University of British Columbia. Specifically, students work on the seven key principles of visualizing climate change, and learn how to produce visual evidence:

  1. Show ‘real people; not staged photo-ops’;
  2. Tell new stories;
  3. Show climate causes at scale;
  4. Show climate impacts that are emotionally powerful;
  5. Show local (but serious) climate impacts;
  6. Be very careful with protest imagery;
  7. Understand and produce evidence for your specific audience.


Part Three of the course is an introduction to professional photography and video production, co-developed by Dr. Olaf Kuhlke and Dr. Alec Johnson at the University of St. Thomas. This third part of the course involves the production of a series of photographs, photo stories and videos that will be evaluated and critiqued by the instructors and students together, in synchronous online work, through Zoom. Students will use cell phones and cameras to create visual evidence of climate change, focusing on the impacts on people and the environment, and also capture climate change activism and protest imagery, when accessible and appropriate. 

Students will share their local experiences with climate change, how they learn about it, and how it has impacted the lives of their families, through generations. The results of the project will be collected and shared in a virtual gallery using artsteps.com, and also distributed to the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development as visual documentation of student work for their respective policy conversations in the last quarter of 2023.

Dr. Kuhlke has built extensive relationships with UNCTAD and participated in the 2019 Ad-Hoc Meeting on the Creative Economy in Geneva, Switzerland, and has since worked with UN Creative Economy Program Director Marisa Henderson on developing arts-based creative economy curriculum for UN future platforms. Thus, this project not only engages students with the arts of photography and videography, but does so in a climate-science context that can potentially inform the policy work of two UN bodies. 

External partnerships

This project is a partnership of @1860 Winnipeg, with funding from the Manitoba Arts Council Indigenous 360 program. The project has five external partners. 

Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Dr. Olaf Kuhlke, Professor and Chair of Arts Entrepreneurship, has been leading the OPOC efforts and curriculum development since 2020. 

University of St. Thomas. Dr. Alec Johnson, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, has worked with Dr. Olaf Kuhlke on the curriculum previously designed for Ilinniappaa Skills Development Center in 2020 and 2021. 

WBEC – West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative. Established in 1959, West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative has enjoyed an international reputation for the exquisite prints, drawings and carvings created by its Inuit artist members. In addition to operation of the Kinngait Studios at the Kenojuak Cultural Centre in Kinngait, the cooperative maintains a Toronto marketing division office, Dorset Fine Arts, which is responsible for interfacing with galleries, museums, cultural professionals, Inuit art enthusiasts and the art market globally. The role of West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative has significantly expanded to include communications, promotion, advocacy, government relations and special projects as related to the Inuit art of Kinngait. Governed by an all-Inuit Board of Directors, the organization also maintains a local retail grocery/hardware store, a restaurant, rental properties and various utility contracts. As a community owned organization, practically all Kinngait adults are shareholders, profits are distributed back to the community in the form of annual dividends. 

GRULAC Junior. The Latin American and Caribbean Regional Youth Group (GRULAC Junior) is a working, discussion, negotiation and preparation group for the active participation of young people from Latin American and Caribbean countries in issues related to the environment and sustainable development. MCAD professor Dr. Olaf Kuhlke has also worked with GRULAC collaborators to build and team the curriculum.

The Gallery on 603 Project. The Gallery on 603 Project is a grassroots, volunteer-driven, seasonal community arts and culture collective supporting diverse emerging youth and professional artists and cultural connectors supported by the Local Services Board of Melgund, Northwestern Ontario. Permanent and travelling exhibit spaces are located on two floors along with inspiring video exhibits to view. As well as hosting live events, The Gallery on 603 Project is a focal point for the community, its interviews, films, essays, publications, performance, residencies, talks and other recreational programs and services.


This project is an ongoing effort in the area of scholarship of teaching and learning. It focuses on “translating” two specific subject areas to make them accessible for high school audiences and the general public: 

First, this work focuses on climate change science, and the efforts of scholars to create and measure the impact of powerful climate change imagery on people that might be called “climate skeptics”. Existing work has highlighted the power of photography, video, social media and immersive journalism in providing both evidence of climate change as well as emotional charged imagery that can change people’s hesitance or resistance to learning about, engaging with and acknowledging human-made climate change. Our work takes the insights from this scholarship, including the psychophysiological research on climate change communication, and develops an 8-week course during which students learn what constitutes “convincing climate change visualization” (Chung and Lee 2019). 

Second, our students then become active researchers that gather and document the impacts of climate change on their communities. Following the inspiration of previous research work that highlights the need of the direct inclusion of local indigenous populations in research operations as a form of reconciliation, indigenous and non-indigenous students from two hemispheres will collaborate and contribute to research on climate change visualization. Furthermore, these contributions will be shared as part of the United Nations Environmental Programme, and thus give students an opportunity to speak to UN delegates and share their evidence through carefully crafted imagery and video. 

Furthermore, this project is focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning, examining the limitations and learning opportunities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 


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