The Coastal Futures Festival is an environmental arts festival created by UVA’s Coastal Futures Conservatory (, a collaboration between artists, humanities scholars, and scientists with the Virginia Coastal Reserve, a long-term ecological research site supported by the National Science Foundation. Through various forms of listening, the Conservatory integrates arts and humanities into the scientific investigation of coastal change in order to deepen understanding and stimulate imaginations.

The Coastal Futures Festivalis presented in collaboration with UVA’s Resilience Institute, the Virginia Coast Reserve long-term ecological research station, the Department of Music, and the Institute for the Humanities and Global Cultures. The Festival opens on September 19th with an arts exhibit that responds to Caribbean coasts in crisis. On September 21, it moves to the Eastern Shore for the opening of a sound art exhibition at the Barrier Islands Center in Machipongo, VA. The Festival returns to UVA for talks and performances on Monday, September 23, culminating in a concert featuring Grammy and MacArthur Award-winning ensemble Eighth Blackbird, and a keynote address by ecoacoustic sound artist Leah Barclay on September 25th.

Featured residents include environmental philosopher Michael Nelson, eco-acoustician Leah Barclay, UVA alumnus and composer Erik DeLuca, Arctic scientist Christina Bonsell, and new music ensemble Eighth Blackbird. In addition to bringing these distinguished guests to UVA, the festival showcases work by UVA faculty, students and alumni whose interdisciplinary research focuses on sound and coastal environments. Through a series of performances, talks, installations, and collaborative work sessions, the Coastal Futures Festival brings together art, film, and multimedia music that represents global issues such as coastal erosion, sea level rise, and melting ice along with the attendant impacts on human and non-human habitats.

Full Schedule of Events:


Coasts in Crisis
Thursday 9/20, 4pm
Brooks Hall Commons, UVA
Arts opening after recent hurricanes

This kick-off event of the Coastal Futures Fall Festival will offer creative ways of addressing environmental disaster by bringing together live music, poetry, photography, painting, and installation art about recent hurricanes from the U.S. South and the Caribbean. The participating artists will perform, display and discuss their work forged out of the experiences common to climate refugees and hurricane survivors: homelessness, forced migration, family separation, food insecurity, and living without electricity or running water. Works by artists from the U.S. South and Greater Caribbean including David Berg (St. Croix, Virgin Islands), Sally Binard (Florida/ Haiti), Jo Cosme (Puerto Rico/ Seattle), Nicole Delgado (Puerto Rico), Alfonso Fuentes (Puerto Rico), and Sarabel Santos Negrón (Puerto Rico).

Liz Miller Shoreline Project
Friday 9/21, 10am
Clark Hall Mural Room, UVA
Exhibit Opening

The Shore Line, a collaborative interactive documentary project, is a collection of dynamic maps, visualizations, soundscape and over 40 videos featuring individuals who are confronting the threats of unsustainable development and extreme weather with persistence and ingenuity. Described as “a storybook for the future,” The Shore Line conveys ways that 43 people, living in the urban cities and remote islands of nine countries, have confronted the climate impacts of rising seas and violent storms. By navigating films, interactive maps, databases, and chapters, The Shore Line users learn about the innovative ways that people have managed the effects of climate change. They can navigate by tags, including strategy toolkits, country, threat, and language. Users can also navigate by occupation — activist, architect, artist, biologist, communication, and so forth — this feature allows The Shore Line to locate ways that they might contribute to their own communities based on their own particular skills and talents.

Sounding Science: Listening to Coastal Futures
Saturday 9/21, 4-6pm
Barrier Islands Center, Machipongo, VA
Sound-art Exhibit Opening

This event features sound-art from musicians working with scientists to understand coastal change. Through individual listening stations, the exhibit features field recordings, data sonifications, and eco-acoustic compositions. Listeners can hear the Eastern Shore anew, and also experience the sounds of coastal change in Australia and the Arctic. Exhibit remains open through December.

Land, Coasts, Oceans
Monday 9/23, 9am-12
Pavilion VII, UVA Lawn
Talks and Presentations on the Arctic
in collaboration with the Arctic Bridgingconference
music by Eighth Blackbird
Keynote by Craig Corey


8:30 Coffee and introductory remarks  

09:00-12:00 Arctic Bridges Session I: Land, Coasts, and Oceans 

12:00-13:30: Lunch  

Coastal Futures Conference
Monday 9/23, 2-4pm
Pan-University Institute,
1400 University Avenue, UVA Corner
Keynote by Michael Nelson
music by Eighth Blackbird
presentations by Conservatory Fellows
guest presentation by Erik DeLuca

The Coastal Futures Conservatory integrates arts and humanities into the investigation of coastal change. Conservatory researchers work with scientists at the Virginia Coast Reserve and with scientists working in other parts of the world. The Conservatory brings the arts and humanities into conversation with the sciences in order to open new ways to listen to and experience the dynamics reshaping coasts. In doing so, we hope to stimulate imagination and deepen public understanding. This lab session features lightning talks by UVA Conservatory Fellows, Keynote presentations by Michael Nelson and Erik DeLuca, and a performance of Jacob Druckman’s On the Nature of Water by Eighth Blackbird percussionist, Matthew Duvall. 

Eighth Blackbird
Coastal Futures Concert
Monday 9/23, 8pm
Old Cabell Hall, UVA Lawn
Joint concert with Arctic Bridging Workshop featuring Eighth Blackbird and the Rivanna String Quartet, Music by Swendsen, Barclay, Evans, Guo, Burtner, Holland, Luna-Mega, and Cage


Blue Desert
Peter Swendsen, music; Rian Brown Orso, video

Migration Patterns
Leah Barclay

Fjiola Evans, composer
Eighth Blackbird

Lemon Guo and Mengtai Zhang

 Festival of Whispers
Matthew Burtner, composer
Eighth Blackbird

The Clarity of Cold Air
Jonathan Bailey Holland, composer
Eighth Blackbird

Under the Sea Ice
Christopher Luna, composer
Rivanna String Quartet

John Cage, composer
group ensemble performance

Eighth Blackbird’s mission is to move music forward through innovative performance, advocate for new music by living composers, and create a legacy of guiding an emerging generation of musicians.

Eighth Blackbird, hailed as “one of the smartest, most dynamic contemporary classical ensembles on the planet” (Chicago Tribune), began in 1996 as a group of six entrepreneurial Oberlin Conservatory students and quickly became “a brand-name defined by adventure, vibrancy and quality” (Detroit Free Press).Over the course of more than two decades, Eighth Blackbird has continually pushed at the edges of what it means to be a contemporary chamber ensemble, presenting distinct programs in Chicago, nationally, and internationally, reaching audiences totaling tens of thousands.

The sextet has commissioned and premiered hundreds of works by composers both established and emerging, and have perpetuated the creation of music with profound impact, such as Steve Reich’sDouble Sextet, which went on to win the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. The ensemble’s extensive recording history, primarily with Chicago’s Cedille Records, has produced more than a dozen acclaimed albums and four Grammy Awards for Best Small Ensemble/Chamber Music Performance, most recently in 2016 for Filament.Receiving the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, Chamber Music America’s inaugural Visionary Award, and being named Musical America’s 2017 Ensemble of the Year have supported Eighth Blackbird’s position as a catalyst for innovation in the new music ecosystem of Chicago and beyond.

Underwater Ecoacoustics Keynote by Leah Barclay
Wednesday 9/25, 2pm, VCCM B11
Old Cabell Hall, UVA Lawn

Dr. Leah Barclay is an Australian sound artist, composer and researcher working at the intersection of art, science and technology. She specialises in electroacoustic music, acoustic ecology and emerging fields of biology exploring environmental patterns and changes through sound. Her sonic environments draw attention to changing climates and fragile ecosystems; the works are realised through live performances, interactive installations and site-specific interventions, and often draw on environmental field recordings, data sonification, live streams and immersive sound diffusion. Her work has been commissioned, performed and exhibited to wide acclaim across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Peru, Colombia, Europe, India, South Africa, China and Korea by organisations including UNESCO, Ear to the Earth, Streaming Museum, Al Gore’s Climate Reality and the IUCN. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and has directed and curated interdisciplinary projects across the Asia-Pacific and USA.

Coastal Conservatory