Energizing Cultural Innovations: How the arts can promote a sustainable energy future

Creating changes in energy production and consumption requires not only technological innovations, but also cultural innovations in how society understands the transformative potential of sustainable energy choices. Art has the proven ability to create movements and stimulate creative dialogue. This panel brings together a variety of experts and practitioners to discuss how the arts and new media can help produce the shift in public perception required to build sustainable communities based on “green” energy.

Moderator: John Zarobell, USF, former curator at SFMOMA

John Zarobell is Assistant Professor of International Studies and Chair of European Studies at the University of San Francisco.  Formerly, he has served as curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He is a regular contributor to the web-based journal Art Practical and his book, Empire of Landscape, considers politics and landscape art in nineteenth-century Algeria.


Jon Shenk, Director/Cinematographer

Jon Shenk, Director/Cinematographer, was the Director of Photography for the Academy Award-winning Smile Pinki (2009). He won an Emmy for Blame Somebody Else (2007). Shenk directed and photographed Lost Boys of Sudan, Independent Spirit Award winner in 2004. Early in his career, he directed and photographed The Beginning (1999), a chronicle of George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode I. Shenkhas produced and photographed dozens of documentaries for television and has been nominated twice for Emmys for his cinematography. He earned his Master’s degree in Documentary Filmmaking from Stanford University in 1995 and his B.A. from Yale in 1991. His latest project, The Island President (2011), is a documentary about the president of Maldives and his fight against climate change.

Amy Balkin, Artist

Amy Balkin is an artist whose work involves land and the geopolitical relationships that frame it. Her solo and collaborative projects, including This is the Public Domain, Public Smog, and Invisible-5, consider political and legal borders and systems, environmental justice, and the allocation of common-pool resources.  She co-teaches the Social Practice Workshop at the California College of the Arts.

Danny Kennedy, Founder, Sungevity

Danny Kennedy is the founder of Sungevity and author of “Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy– and Our Planet– from Dirty Energy“.  A long-time social entrepreneur, Danny has achieved global recognition as an environmental activist, innovator, spokesperson, and opinion leader. Prior to Sungevity, Danny was the Campaigns Manager for Greenpeace Australia Pacific. In 2001, he ran Greenpeace’s California Clean Energy Campaign, the success of which helped lead to the current California Solar Initiative. Danny was the founder and first Executive Director of Project Underground in the 1990s and serves on several nonprofit boards.

Heidi Quante, Campaign & Creative Communication Consultant

Heidi Quante has over 14 years experience designing and managing a wide array of human rights and environmental campaigns.  Most recently, Heidi has managed media and creative projects for Adventure Ecology, The Breast Cancer Action Fund, The Story of Stuff Project and the international climate change organization 350.org.  Heidi is passionate about using the arts including participatory public intervention art, music and film to engage the public in social and environmental issues.  She received a B.S. in Ecology and B.A. in History from U.C. Berkeley.

Kim Anno, Artist

Kim Anno is an interdisciplinary artist whose interests reside in the intersection of art and science and climate change. Her work has been collected by museums nationally and shown internationally. Born in Los Angeles, Anno most recently has had exhibitions at the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg titled “Water City: Durban” , and the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. Her work is supported for the past three years by the Zellerbach Foundation. She has also been commissioned to make an artists’ book with poet, Anne Carson in 2013 by St. John’s Literary Press in Minnesota. She is also a professor at the California College of the Arts.


Here in the US, the effects of climate change are starting to emerge and its impacts are beginning to be felt. However with our developed infrastructure and economy, our citizens are not faced with immediate catastrophic risk. So, many continue living a business-as-usual lifestyle. The country of Maldives on the other hand cannot afford such leisure. Their citizens are at risk of losing everything they’ve ever known. The film The Island President tells the story of the Maldives and one man’s struggle to save his country from the catastrophic effects of climate change. We’re excited that its director, Jon Shenk, will be joining our discussion on how the arts can help shape the sustainable culture of the future.