Artists for the Earth

Listen to the Earth: An Earth Day celebration of the arts

“I was front and center with the first Earth Day,” said Joe Holt. “When it came around, we all decided that we were going to walk home from school — we were never going to take the bus again. That was going to be our contribution to save the planet.”

Such was the first encounter Holt had with Earth Day. Fifty years later, Holt, the artistic director for Choral Artists of Sarasota, is promoting the movement with what he knows best: the arts.  ​

The Choral Artists of Sarasota, Florida, will host a weekend-long series of events that runs April 23-25, 2021. The events will use music, speech and film to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

The weekend will feature local student science projects, screenings of environmental documentaries and a panel spearheaded by Nobel Prize-winner Terry Root and award-winning actress Jane Alexander. The weekend will culminate with the world premiere of ​a choral piece by composer James Grant. 

“We are thrilled and humbled to be a part of this,” Holt said. “As artists, we have to do whatever we can to underscore the urgency and… perhaps bring a unique perspective to it.”

More than three years ago, Grant came to Holt with an idea for a choral piece called Listen to the Earth, with the goal of turning climate change into a positive call to action.

“We have to come out of this knowing that we ought to be better stewards of our planet,” Holt said. “Because we’re the only ones here, I mean, who else is going to take care of it?”

That initial idea blossomed into this three-day event. But, according to Holt, the important work will come after the event — locally.

Florida faces many environmental dangers from climate change, including frequent flooding, more intense storms and deadly algal blooms. A report released in October 2019 even found contaminants linked to cancer, brain and nervous system damage and other serious health conditions in Sarasota County drinking water.

“Obviously, here in Florida, water plays a huge role in our daily lives,” Holt said. “In 30 years, we could have an entirely new shoreline. So, I think we’ve reached a point where it’s time to get serious.”

Holt hopes this event will push others to take action and continue to put the arts at the forefront of the environmental movement.

The Smithsonian Institution has recognized the Choral Artists’ event as part of its Earth Optimism Summit. And, Holt recently registered as an Artist for the Earth for Earth Day Network, giving him a larger platform.

Artists for the Earth is a global campaign that seizes the power of art to educate and inspire action to protect the Earth. Through the beauty and power of art, the difficult issues of climate change and the environment can become a force for positive change.

Use your (singing) voice — whether you think it’s good or not — to help the planet. Register as an Artist for the Earth today.

Note: This article was edited as the dates of the event changed.