UT researchers team with artists to prepare Texas for tumultuous future

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – By 2050, the Texas’ population is expected to double and the looming threat of climate change could put things like clean drinking water, reliable energy and the economy at risk.

“We’re seeing impacts of changing climate and cities growing and people moving towards urban areas and that’s putting a lot of stress on our urban systems,” said Professor Fernanda Leite, chair of Planet Texas 2050, an eight-year “grand challenge” put on by the University of Texas that’s aimed at finding solutions for sustainability issues across the state.

One of the program’s goals is connecting researchers across multiple disciplines in order to find solutions to the coming crisis. Over 130 UT researchers are currently part of the project.

“We’re always thinking about how we can engage the broader audience. How can we engage K-12, how can we engage policymakers to really understand what we’re doing instead of presenting traditional Powerpoint presentations,” Leite said.

To help break the mold from the traditional Powerpoint, the program works with artists from other disciplines. “We’re open to any form of artistic expression: music, film, visual arts,” Leite says.

Planet Texas 2050 partnered with UT’s College of Fine Arts and Texas Performing Arts to design a futuristic escape room that places participants in the shoes of scientists on an observational platform in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico during a powerful hurricane that’s quickly intensifying.

The Planet Texas 2050 team has collaborated with artists in the past to develop everything from hurricane-themed escape rooms to virtual reality tours of Austin in 2050. Austin artist Champ Turner was commissioned by the project to produce a water color map showcasing some of the projects they’ve worked on.

This week, the program is adding an artist in residence to Planet Texas 2050. This artist or artists, multiple could be selected, will collaborate with researchers on a project. The selected artist could receive up to $25,000 to work on their project. The money will be divided if multiple artists are selected.

Submissions must be made by this Friday at 5 p.m. CST. You can find more information here.

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