Adirondack storytelling project chronicles climate change experiences

Around the high peaks of Adirondack Park, an interdisciplinary project explores environmental conflict through the art of storytelling. This year, ADK Climate Stories, led by Stephanie Ashenfelder (Digital Media Studies, Studio Art) and Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp (Dance and Movement), partnered with the Summer Sustainability Fellowship to explore how people living in Adirondack Park are experiencing climate change today.


Connecting Climate Change and Personal Narratives

Sprawling across six million acres, Adirondack Park stands as a majestic testament to nature’s grandeur and the delicate balance between preservation and development. With half of the park protected under the “forever wild” New York Forest Preserve and half comprising private lands, the Adirondacks become a canvas for unraveling environmental conflicts. At the intersection of this wilderness and human habitation, ADK Climate Stories emerges to amplify climate change through art and personal narratives.

wooden recording booth is positioned outside nearby trees and a lake
The Climate Booth collecting stories in Lake George

Climate change is often portrayed through daunting scientific data and forecasts, distancing the issue from immediate human experiences. Recognizing the power of personal narratives, ADK Climate Stories embarks on an innovative journey to bridge this gap. The project centers on a mobile audio installation that travels through Adirondack Park, capturing stories of individuals witnessing the effects of climate change. These personal accounts serve as a potent tool to transform climate change from an abstract concept into a relatable and urgent reality. By grounding the conversation in local experiences and emotions, the project strives to foster climate-resilient communities that respond effectively to the challenges at hand. As a long-term project that welcomes new cohorts of students each year, the outcomes of this project range from community building events, story collection and archiving, and performance and art works that reflect climate change experiences.


Empowering Student Activist/Artists

Artist Rachel DeVona talks with Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp at the 2023 Artist Retreat

The heart of ADK Climate Stories lies in its endeavor to inspire a new generation of student activists and artists. This year’s cohort of the University’s Summer Sustainability Fellowship (Mahnoor Raza ’24, Julia Martin ’24, Fin Tran ’25, and Ellie Hayward ’26) engaged with the recorded narratives and reflected on innovative ways to translate these stories into impactful art forms. This artistic expression becomes a conduit for communicating the gravity of climate change and igniting meaningful conversations. Recalls Ashenfelder, “While immersed in the Adirondacks, [fellows] conducted interviews, promoted initiatives on social media, and helped host a climate-themed artist retreat. They observed how this humanistic approach to climate change resonates emotionally and brings home the scale of the climate crisis—and the need for action.”

Film, dance, visual art, music – these diverse mediums intertwine to give voice to the uncharted emotional landscape of climate change. The resulting artworks are soon to find a home within a digital archive at, housing both the creative reflections and the original climate change stories.


The Fellowship Experience

By partnering with the Summer Sustainability Fellowship, ADK Climate Stories offered a dynamic and immersive experience for University of Rochester undergraduates. Working alongside Ashenfelder and Pasquarello Beauchamp, this year’s fellows embarked on a transformative journey spanning June and July.

Informal showing of films in progress at the 2023 Artist Retreat

Fellows collaborated with community partners, such as the Adirondack Council, to collect climate change stories from various locations within the park. This exposure nurtures a deeper understanding of the intricate interplay between nature, society, and climate. Ashenfelder and Pasquarello Beauchamp also launched a course called “Climate Interventions: Performing Arts and New Media” and received a course development grant from the Center for Community Engagement to help establish the project’s partnerships and content. Further, the fellowship offered the unique opportunity to engage with a sustainability leader, The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York. This experience provided a first-hand look into the practical efforts and initiatives dedicated to addressing climate change and promoting sustainability. “We had the opportunity to work on a diverse range of sustainability projects and programming in and around [The Wild Center],” shared Mahnoor Raza. “It was a great way to learn how climate change can be addressed through effective and thoughtful storytelling.”

ADK Climate Stories and the Summer Sustainability Fellowship encapsulates the spirit of exploration, creativity, and activism. By intertwining personal narratives, art, and science, the ADK Climate Stories breathes life into the climate change discourse. As the mobile audio installation winds its way through Adirondack Park, it weaves a tapestry of voices, emotions, and perspectives, ultimately building a stronger connection between humanity and the environment we share.

large image of the moon with a student at an editing table
Fin Tran ‘23 at The Wild Center

ADK Climate Stories will be hosting a public exhibition in the Sage Art Center’s ASIS Gallery August 30 – September 17. Exhibition talks and closing reception will be held on September 14 at 5:00 PM. In the coming months, ADK Climate stories will also feature story archives, performances, events, and academic opportunities on their website, Check often for a more in depth look and be sure to follow @adkclimatestories on Instagram.

Written by Carole Wilay ‘25

Photos provided by ADK Climate Stories