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“How could a work of art help the world? Warren commissions a mural to raise awareness about climate change.

“We are no longer at that moment in history. We need giant systemic changes,” she said.

Arist Josie Morway in front of his mural at 24 Child Street.Ryan T. Conaty for the Boston Gl

Over the past week, Morway has been working on a large-scale mural on Child Street in Warren, Rhode Island. It was commissioned by the Warren Arts & Cultural Commission and The Avenue Concept, a nonprofit public art organization based in the Upper South neighborhood of Providence. When approached about a possible commission for this mural, she had some of the same concerns and “wondered if people thought art could fix things.”

Instead, she said the city has impressed her with her conversations about community-managed retreat on the path to sea level rise, and how to respond and be resilient ahead of time. possible flooding.

The city sent him a copy of “Rising – Dispatches from the New American Shore,” by Rhode Island-based author Elizabeth Rush, for inspiration. A 2019 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction, the book opens at Jacob’s Point in Warren, a salt marsh.

The mural features a salt marsh sparrow, as this section of Warren is known as the bird’s native breeding ground. Salt grass, native Phragmites, and sea marsh elderberry are also important and are all important parts of Jacob’s Point ecosystem.Ryan T. Conaty for the Boston Gl

The mural, which Morway expects to submit by Monday evening, features a salt marsh sparrow, as this section of Warren is known as the bird’s native breeding ground. Salt grass, native Phragmites, and sea marsh elderberry are also important and are all important parts of Jacob’s Point ecosystem.

In large block letters, the phrase “The seas are rising and so are we” is written across the top. Morway said she read this line in Rush’s book and felt it fit the theme of the installation, which she hopes will inspire others to take up the challenge of change. climatic.

Warren’s average elevation is seven feet above sea level, with projections that the region could achieve a sea level rise of nine feet by the end of the century, according to Bob Rulli, director of community planning and development for Warren.

“We have to be very vigilant about what those impacts could be for the city and our residents,” Rulli said. “Raising awareness of climate change and sea level rise through art is an alternative medium, which we can use to raise awareness of the inevitable.”

Morway got his start in art in Providence after earning a degree in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. But she has had many jobs ranging from data and web development to urban mapping and GIS geographic information system mapping over the years. Ryan T. Conaty for the Boston Gl

Avenue Concept and the city will commission a new artist to repaint the mural each year. Yarrow Thorne, founder and executive director of the nonprofit, said the intention of the mural was to continue raising awareness of climate change and sea level rise in every design.

Morway got his start in art in Providence after graduating with a degree in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design, but has held many jobs ranging from data and web development to urban panning and system mapping. geographic information over the years. Growing up on Cape Cod, her parents were both artists, so creativity was encouraged. While she tried “everything else”, she always came back to art – like skipping class or stealing time off the clock at a job to paint.

Avenue Concept and the city will commission a new artist to repaint the mural each year.Ryan T. Conaty for the Boston Gl

At one point, she wanted to be a writer or a journalist. “And then I read a book that said you shouldn’t be a writer unless you absolutely can’t avoid it,” said Morway, whose art has been featured around the world. “Well, that’s how I feel about art.”

Morway’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the US, UK, Australia and Mexico. She has also worked with organizations such as Pangeaseed and “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” to raise awareness of climate change while raising funds for conservation.

“What is enough to fight climate change? It’s complicated and beyond me,” Morway said. “It takes cities, national governments and businesses. It’s so much bigger than individuals. Consumer behavior is not enough. Cycling to work won’t stop rising seas.

“It’s something I struggle with every day. How could a work of art help the world? I don’t think that’s possible,” she said. “It may not be my mural that has a direct impact on a person who can make a change. But if the mural works as a tool for those other players bigger than me, then I’m happy to be a part of it.

“Like how could a piece of art help the world? I don’t think that’s possible,” said artist Josie Morway.Ryan T. Conaty for the Boston Gl

Alexa Gagosz can be contacted at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.

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