Nature’s Toolbox

Nature’s Toolbox is a broadly themed show organized around the power of art and artists to instigate positive global environmental corrections, stimulating biodiversity, increasing public awareness and hopefully reducing the more harmful actions of humans on our home.

No longer in dispute, global climate change affects every part of our daily lives. Not only is the presence of Humankind felt in every ecosphere on the globe but the change has transcended the merely ecological. An increasing rate of droughts and floods creates instability in global markets, which in turn affect policy change, the health and well being of ourselves and our neighbors, and now at an increasing rate, art and culture.

Not surprisingly artist, architects and designers are increasingly finding environmental concerns to be at the center or their work. Correspondingly, there is a growing demand for curated shows and exhibitions with an ecological or “sustainable” theme. We can recall the 2010 Rising currents exhibition at MoMa , the arrival of organizations such as the Green Museum, and of course the increasing prevalence of artist working with biological and ecological themes such as Natalie Jeremijenko, Fritz Heag, Samm Kunce, and Sandra Voetz to name only a few. And now most recently (and quite exhaustively) with Nature’s Tool Box, previously at the Field Museum in Chicago and now moving to the art gallery at the University of Northern Iowa in Waterloo.

Nature’s Toolbox is organized around the power of art and artists to instigate positive global environmental corrections, stimulating biodiversity, increasing public awareness and hopefully reducing the more harmful actions of humans on our home. From the website:

“Nature’s Toolbox” brings together works by artists who explore biodiversity’s many facets. Some grapple with the ways our everyday activities are linked to loss of species and biodiversity. Others examine how biodiversity contributes to the quality of our lives, or probe the potential of nature’s amazing blueprints to build a future in which human needs are met in harmony with nature. At its core, “Nature’s Toolbox” is a celebration of biodiversity, creativity, and ingenuity.”

Nature’s Toolbox has four sub themes:

  • What is biodiversity?
  • Why is biodiversity important?
  • How do humans affect biodiversity
  • What can we learn from nature about how to flourish?

Each of the themes then serves as the focus for a series of curated artists and objects;  each illustrating the relative role of art and the artist within that context.

To say the show is broad in scope would be an oversimplification and the list of artists includes a wide range of individuals working in fine art, film, architecture, plant-art and sculpture. Not to mention that the themes themselves (biodiversity and the role of humankind therein) are large and imposing – possibly too large for one show to properly address. But it doesn’t matter. The show is a call to arms. The curator does not mince words. Biodiversity is in decline. Art will save the world!

The need for environmental stories has never been greater. Earth is steadily crossing increasingly alarming thresholds of climate change and other environmental challenges. Biologists view human impact as the primary contributor to an emerging mass extinction. People are hungry for positive images of the future. Effectively told, stories can have a powerful impact in determining how our future unfolds. The stories at the heart of “Nature’s Toolbox” offer fresh perspectives, demonstrating that humanity itself is an essential piece of this system, and the salvation not just of nature, but ourselves.Species are disappearing at an alarming rate, claiming individual genes and entire ecosystems—and, along with them, the blueprints for a healthy planet and all who live here. Each loss carries with it a missing piece of life’s intricate puzzle and the benefits it brings to human well-being. The price we pay for these losses is incalculable.

I couldn’t agree more.


Information about Nature’s Toolbox and it’s past, present and future locations can be found at the website  and below.


The Leonardo, Salt Lake City, Utah | January 28 – August 5, 2013

Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, Kansas | August 31 — December 17, 2013

University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art, Iowa|August 25- October 18, 2014

MuBE, Sao Paulo, Brazil|2015

For more information email

Allora & Calzadilla, USA & Cuba; Suzanne Anker, USA; BioHarmonious, USA; Antonio Briceno, Venezuela; Vincent Callebaut, France; Rob Carter, USA; Catherine Chalmers, USA; Ri Crawford, USA: Anthony Discenza, USA; Chris Drury, UK; Aganetha Dyck and Richard Dyck, Canada; Cao Fei, China; Hall & Moline, USA; Chris Jordan, USA; Kahn & Selesnick, USA & UK; Christian Kerrigan, UK; Isabella Kirkland, USA; Charles Lee, USA; Katja Loher, Switzerland; Lori Nix, USA; Lucy & Jorge Orta, UK; Donna Keiko Ozawa, USA; Sven Pahlsson, Norway; Susan Plum, Mexico; Ken Rinaldo, USA; Isabella Rossellini, Italy; Tomas Saraceno, Argentina; Yuriko Yamaguchi, Japan; Xu Zhen, China; Marina Zurkow, USA; E.V. Day, USA; Joyce Hsu, Hong Kong; Don & Era Farnsworth, USA; Neri Oxman, Israel


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