Painting Science on the walls in Helsinki

Art is not only about aesthetics, it's also about having an influence. Researchers will bring climate science to the streets of Helsinki by co-designing a mural on climate change together with urban artists. Art will help science make an impact when a mural near Linnanmäki amusement park and paintings in electricity boxes will visualize climate change by the end of the summer.

“It’s not an art project. It’s a question of how can we discuss climate science in the most impactful way? Science may seem like just numbers. And you don’t react to numbers. Art can help us translate the story of what our data is telling us”, Stephany Mazon concluded. She is a doctoral student in the Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR) at the University of Helsinki and trying to popularize science.

She was traveling on the tram, when she saw an electricity box with what looked like cells painted on it. She thought that it would be exciting if people could be exposed to scientific pictures in their daily commute around the city. She gathered a panel of scientists from INAR, contacted Helsinki Urban Art and applied to several funding organisations to make this happen. She got 3600 euros from Arts Promotion Centre Finland.

How can art help to talk about science?

Residents of Helsinki will soon see glimpses of the impact of climate change in their surroundings. Maija Pulkkinen and Maikki Rantala from Helsinki Urban Art will paint a wall in Alppila in Aleksis Kiven katu near Linnanmäki amusement park, and a mobile electricity station in Pasila in the end of August. Before that INAR scientists and the artists are workshopping together the message and image to be conveyed on the mural.

Scientists and students from INAR will paint several electricity boxes all around Helsinki after being taught how to stencil by the street artists. The electricity boxes will be mapped during summer.

There is a massive amount of scientific data about climate change. What kind of glimpses of it the residents will see? How to crystallize the scientific understanding about climate change in one painting?

People around table workshopping a mural

The scientists and the artists are workshopping together the message and image to be conveyed on the mural.

The audience of the mural will be of all ages so it should interest the kids but offer something to think about also for the adults. The aim is not to convey anxiety, but definitely to emphasize the gravity of the situation and need for action.

Scientist on Twitter

“There is a lot of information and recommendations out there, but we need to understand the ‘why?’ behind them so we can make effective decisions. For example food, what has a higher CO2 footprint, local meat or an overseas vegetable?” Mazon says.

Mazon believes that people should have access to scientists to ask questions. And if the scientists of “Painting Science” -project don’t know, they will find someone who can answer. Earlier INAR and the Finnish Meteorological Institute launched an initiative in the climate science called Kysyilmastosta.fi led by postdoctoral researcher Risto Makkonen who is also part of the team designing the wall. 

The wall will include the tags @kysyilmastosta (ask about the climate) and #ScienceInHelsinki, so you can reach scientists online. In the future, Mazon hopes to paint other science topics, with the help of The Science Basement student association that promotes science communication.

This summer there will be scientists around Helsinki painting electricity boxes. In August there might be an opening event of the mural where the scientists and artists could present how it was to co-desing science into art. Right now Stephany Mazon is looking to get more funding to arrange it.

More information

Doctoral Student Stephany Mazon, University of Helsinki, stephany.mazon@helsinki.fi, +358 466546260
Twitter: @Steph_Nataly

Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research (INAR)

Helsinki Urban Art

The Science Basement