Art build unites climate activists in Oregon Hill

Members of the Earth Folk Collective and Extincion Rebellion groups came together on Sunday to create signs for this year's All The Saints Theater Halloween Parade. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Quentin Rice, Staff Writer

Participants sat outside on an unusually hot October day and painted banners with phrases like “System change, not climate change” and “Dinosaurs against mass extinction.” 

Climate activists from the Extinction Rebellion, the Earth Folk Collective and other organizations met in Oregon Hill on Sunday to prepare for the All the Saints Theater Halloween Parade, the neighborhood’s annual art build. 

The parade, which will take place on Halloween night, will feature these banners and puppets made by All the Saints Theater of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and the Amazon rainforest, featuring dancing trees and flames.

Other banners bore Extinction Rebellion’s hourglass-inspired logo — stressing what little time there is left to take action toward climate change — and Greta Thunberg’s famous “How dare you,” which she delivered in a speech at the U.N. Climate Action Summit in September.

“I think people confuse optimism and encouragement and cheer with happiness,” said Extinction Rebellion member Laura Haden. “Whereas it’s really about being cheerful while having extremely sad conversations, because that’s the gift that we give each other.”

Laney Sullivan and Jameson Price founded Earth Folk Collective to provide a space for people to have those conversations in a positive atmosphere.

“It started at our home that we wanted to open up to workshops and to discuss educational things like nature immersion and earth skills, but also topics like consent or social justice,” Price said. “We don’t want it to be just a basement show space, we want it to be somewhat immersive with food and agriculture.”

Not far from the house the Earth Folk operates out of is the Fonticello Food Forest, a garden with trees that produce an array of fruits, such as persimmons, apples and peaches. Sullivan and Price said the Fonticello Food Forest aims to reintroduce practical, food-producing trees back into public spaces.

“Hopefully next year we might start a collaboration with an apothecary project where we harvest the herbs and make medicine and try to make it available to the community,” Sullivan said.

Mara Robbins, who helped organize Sunday’s art build, moved to Richmond this year from Floyd County. She said Richmond is more diverse in income level and race than where she came from. 

“And I love those differences, I’m inspired by them,” Robbins said. “I’ve believed for a long time that a diversity of tactics is the only way we’re gonna win, and that building a community is the way to assure a sustainable future.”

Moira Neve, a VCU freshman who works with Extinction Rebellion and youth-led climate action group Sunrise Movement, helped organize the build to unite climate action groups around a single event. 

“I really wanted to have one, an art build, and two, a chance not just for Extinction Rebellion, but for other groups to come together,” Neve said. “And an opportunity to tell people my age ‘You can come to this and find out what we’re about.’ It’s been fun and engaging.”

The All The Saints Theater Halloween Parade will begin at 7 p.m. in Monroe Park and travel through Oregon Hill via Laurel Street. 

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