Why do the arts matter after a hurricane? The digital exhibit “Coasts in Crisis” answers this question with art, music, poetry, and conversation from Greater Caribbean artists who experienced Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Based on an event held at the University of Virginia in 2019, “Coasts in Crisis” features creative resistance to global climate change and failed governmental hurricane responses.
In an age of rising global sea levels and temperatures, resilience to hurricanes is a central concern for coastal communities, from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to the islands of the Caribbean. This project explores the role of the arts in the Atlantic Hurricane Zone.
Local and federal governments rarely consider the arts to be an essential service in the aftermath of hurricanes. Yet a closer look at resilience in storm-damaged communities challenges that assumption. Indeed, music, art, literature and dance offer important forms of creative resistance in post-hurricane societies. First, they provide a manner of coping with storm-related trauma, both for the creators and for those who experience the works. Second, art creates a sense of community by raising awareness about shared experiences, particularly in isolated areas. Third, art consoles, gives pleasure, and offers an escape from disaster; when most of Puerto Rico went without power for three to eight months after Hurricane Maria, people began reading and attending museum and music events rather than looking at screens. Entertainment functions as a balm and as a celebration of life amid the loss. Finally, the arts can serve as a call to political action. This is particularly true in areas in which economic crisis, governmental ineptitude, and environmental injustice exacerbate the suffering of coastal communities.