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Tardigrade Stage addresses climate change through performance art

The newly founded Tardigrade Stage, an arts collective raising money for organizations fighting climate change, held its first event at the Democracy Center last Saturday. The event, “Arts for Climate: Tardigrade Stage #1,” united artists to create a performance advocating for action against climate change.

Founded by Barbara Lieurance, a classical pianist with a growing concern for the environment, Tardigrade Stage’s artistic events are designed to simultaneously lift people’s spirits and support organizations working for environmental and social justice.

Saturday’s event included a mix of classical music, folk music, personal stories and face painting, according to Lieurance’s website.

“[Arts for Climate] is a 100 percent volunteer based event, and 100 percent of any donations that are raised go to whatever organization it’s supporting,” Lieurance said.

The proceeds from this event went to support 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future, a grassroots organization with a statewide network of volunteers working toward bettering the environment.

Lieurance said she became involved in climate activism about a year ago, after the 2016 presidential election made her reconsider the future of climate activism in the United States.

“After a year of very diligently being involved in lobbying my senators and learning about these very detailed bills and issues and trying to go to where power is and affect the power, I realized that I was getting burned out,” Lieurance said.

Lieurance realized, she said, that many people wanted to help the environment but didn’t know how or didn’t have time to go as deeply into activism as she had. That realization inspired her to start Tardigrade Stage.

“Tardigrade’s goals are goals that I thought were needing to be met in activism,” Lieurance said. “There are lot of creative people who want to help and are activists, or who aren’t activists, and they want to figure out how to help and how to come together.”

She finds art to include in her events through community submissions.

“The idea is that art itself brings people together, rejuvenates them, gives everybody a bit of a lift, and maybe gives everybody space away from screens and scary news,” Lieurance said.

At the event, musical performances were paired with body and face paint to depict the performers as an endangered species. The concert featured several artists, who performed both original songs and classical pieces.

The artists included violinist Gabby Diaz, pianist Hubert Ho, violinist duo Emily Rome and Annegret Klaua, singer and guitarist Chris D’Agostino and Barkers of the Imminent Conundrum, a duo band who sang classic and original folk music resistance songs.

Tad Hitchcock, the guitarist and vocalist of the Barkers of the Imminent Conundrum, said his group’s name actually references climate change.

“We are all the Barkers of the Imminent Conundrum, the imminent conundrum being climate change and all the concerns that come with it –– that’s why we’re here,” Hitchcock said. “We are all very acutely aware of climate issues, and we just want to speak a little louder about it.”

The violinists were painted by face and body painter Shelby Meyerhoff, acting as her living canvas.

The event also featured a preview of an art installation created by hundreds of young voters across Massachusetts to urge their representatives to work to reduce global warming as part of the “Put a Price on It” campaign. The complete art installation will be on display at the State House this week.

“I actually feel very energized by this event,” said Lucy Page, 23, of Winchester. “I just feel more hopeful I suppose.”

Page said the event was great for reminding people there are others who care and that there’s a way forward if everyone makes an effort to counter climate change.

This resilience, Lieurance said, inspired her to name her project Tardigrade Stage.

Tardigrades, often called water bears, are microscopic water dwelling animals that can survive even the harshest of weather conditions and have survived in the most extreme conditions.

“I find their resilience inspiring,” Lieurance said. “One of the foundational reasons I started this project was to build resilience, in my life and hopefully in other people’s lives, too.”

Correction: A previous version of this article said “The idea is that art itself brings people together, rejuvenates them, gives everybody a bit of a life, and maybe gives everybody space away from screams and scary news,” Lieurance said. Lieurance’s quote should read “The idea is that art itself brings people together, rejuvenates them, gives everybody a bit of a lift, and maybe gives everybody space away from screens and scary news.” The current version reflects this change.

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