Opening Conversation: Actions for the Earth: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Opening Conversation: Actions for the Earth

closeup of a Black person with dark skin tone, in yellow and red garment and head wrap, holding a staff and on the beach
2:00 PM-3:30 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Sat February 3, 2024
2:00 PM-3:30 PM


McCormick Auditorium, First Floor of Norris University Center
1999 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public


Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology brings together work by an intergenerational, transnational group of artists who use strategies of kinship, healing, and restorative interventions to foster a deeper and more urgent awareness of our interconnectedness with the earth.   

Join us for an interdisciplinary opening conversation on art; eco-anxiety and resilience; climate crisis science and impact; and the importance of cross-disciplinary thinking and problem-solving to affect change. Actions for the Earth consulting curator Stephanie Smith will be in dialogue with Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of the Loka Initiative, Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Teresa Montoya, Artist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago; and Kimberly Marion Suiseeya, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Policy and Culture program at Northwestern University; Faculty Affiliate with the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research and the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy.  

Drop by The Block from 12:00-1:30pm to visit the exhibition with our Block Museum Student Associates. The museum will remain open until 6pm.  

Programs are open to all, on a first-come first-served basis. RSVPs not required, but appreciated. 



Actions for the Earth: Art, Care & Ecology is curated by Sharmila Wood and produced by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York. The Block’s presentation of this exhibition is supported in part by the Illinois Arts Council Agency, the Bernstein Family Contemporary Art Fund, the Dorothy J. Speidel Fund, and the Alsdorf Gallery at The Block Museum Endowment. The Block Museum presentation of the exhibition was coordinated by consulting curator Stephanie Smith.

This program is co-sponsored by the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities as part of their Sovereignties Dialogue, a year-long conversation mobilizing humanities research to question, understand, and reimagine sovereignties—bodily, artistic, intellectual, geopolitical. 







About Program Participants


photo of a Bhutia woman with medium-dark skin and hair up, wearing green and smiling while outside  Dekila Chungyalpa is the founder and director of the Loka Initiative. She is an accomplished environmental program director, with 20+ years of experience in designing and implementing global conservation and climate strategies and projects. Known as an innovator in the environmental field, Dekila has expertise in faith-led environmental and climate partnerships, biodiversity landscape and river basin strategy design, and community-based conservation. She began her career in 2001 working on community-based conservation in the Eastern Himalayas and went on to work on climate adaptation and free flowing rivers in the Mekong region for the World Wildlife Fund in 2004. In 2008, she helped establish Khoryug, an association of over 50 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries implementing environmental projects across the Himalayas under the auspices of His Holiness the Karmapa. In 2009, Dekila founded and led WWF Sacred Earth, a 5-year pilot program that built partnerships with faith leaders and religious institutions towards conservation and climate results in the Amazon, East Africa, Himalayas, Mekong, and the United States. She received the prestigious Yale McCluskey Award in 2014 for her work and moved to the Yale School of Environmental Studies as an associate research scientist, where she researched, lectured and designed the prototype for what is now the Loka Initiative. Dekila is originally from the Himalayan state of Sikkim in India and is of Bhutia origin. 


photo of Diné woman with light skin tone and long hair, smiling while standing outside
Teresa Montoya is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago.

Her manuscript project tentatively titled, Permeable: Diné Politics of Extraction and Exposure, approaches territorial dispossession and environmental toxicity as pervasive features of contemporary Indigenous life. Based on over 15 months of ethnographic research on the Navajo Nation, her research engages local modes of relating, both in its political and kinship imaginings, to understand the entanglements of checkerboard allotment, tribal jurisdiction, and regulatory failure among Diné communities of present-day northern Arizona and New Mexico. Themes of environmental contamination and settler colonialism interrogated in her writing are central to her ongoing media work in the mediums of photography and filmmaking.Her academic, political, and personal commitments are centered in Diné Bikéyah, the home that she carries with her and the home to which she always returns. She is Diné and an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. 


photo of a white woman with curly, grey short hair and glasses, smiling while outdoorsStephanie Smith is a Chicago-based curator, writer, and arts leader whose collaborative, socially engaged projects assert art’s power to envision and enact other futures. She values place-responsive, generous, and hospitable ways of working—honed through 25+ years of curatorial practice including senior roles at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and Institute for Contemporary Art in Richmond, Virginia. In 2022, Smith joined Awi’nakola (“we are one with the land and the sea”), a project based in British Columbia in which artists, scientists, and Indigenous knowledge keepers are seeking effective responses to the climate crisis and working together to regenerate land and culture.

Key curatorial projects include Rashid Johnson: Monument (ICA), Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art (Smart + tour, received Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award) and Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art (Smart + ICI + tour). Notable co-curated projects include Commonwealth (Beta-Local + Philadelphia Contemporary + ICA), Agora: 4th Athens Biennial, and Heartland (Smart + VanAbbemuseum). Smith teaches, writes, serves on the advisory board for MARCH, and was a contributing editor at Afterall journal. She served as Provostial Researcher at the University of Chicago’s Franke Institute for the Humanities (2022–2023), holds an MA from Rice University, and is researching Chicagoland—on long-term, place-based, artist-led projects in Chicago—for her PhD with the University of Amsterdam.


photo of a white woman with curly, light-brown hair, smiling in front of a purple backdrop

Kimberly Marion Suiseeya is an environmental social scientist with expertise in environmental justice, global environmental politics, Indigenous politics, and community-driven research. Her research examines how Indigenous communities shape and are impacted by multilateral environmental agreements like the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. She is a Commission Member of the IUCN’s Commission on Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy, a Research Fellow with the Earth System Governance project, and a member of the Earth System Governance project’s Planetary Justice Taskforce. Dr. Marion Suiseeya is also an experienced policy practitioner who has worked and conducted research in Guyana, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, and the US. Her research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at