Brad Heck ’04 Awarded Thriving Communities Project Grant

A faculty member in film/video studies, Brad will create a virtual tour of Vermont landscapes affected by climate change.

June 05, 2019

“To fully comprehend the impact of climate change requires a scientific analysis, but it is human stories of relationship to the land, and to nature, that is critical in creating an effective call to action,” said Brad Heck ’04, who teaches film studies at Marlboro College. Now he will have the opportunity to demonstrate these relationships in 360-degree, stereoscopic, immersive virtual reality thanks to a grant from the Community Engagement Lab.

Brad is one of five teaching artists or artist teams across the state to receive the first Thriving Communities Project Grants––each worth $10,000—to lead creative projects that strengthen awareness of climate change challenges. Applicants were asked to propose bringing their community together to make an artwork that explores this essential question: “The Earth is speaking––how do we respond?”

Brad’s project, in partnership with Marlboro College and nearby Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center, is titled “Immersive Vermont,” and entails a virtual reality tour of the impact of climate change across several Vermont landscapes. At each site a naturalist will be paired with a local resident, representing a diversity of ages, classes, political persuasions, gender and sexual orientations, who has a special connection to the land.

“Immersive Vermont will transport viewers to threatened locations in Vermont, so that they can experience the impact of climate change in a visceral way,” said Brad, who plans to involve Marlboro students as crew on the project. “By immersing viewers in threatened areas and guiding their experience from both a personal and a scientifically grounded perspective, this project aims to amplify the voice of the land and carry it to a wide and diverse audience in Vermont and beyond.”

Along with artists from Middlebury, Brattleboro, and Burlington, Brad and his collaborators will share their far-reaching project with their community, and the world, in the winter or spring of 2020. Paul Gambill, executive director of the Community Engagement Lab, said, “The changing environment is the greatest challenge of our time, and we believe that teaching artists can play an essential catalytic role in helping communities understand how to address that challenge.”