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UA Art Prof’s Photos Reveal Effect of Community Pollution on Children, Family

Allison Grant

As part of the A&S Program for Intensive Research (ASPIRE), Assistant Professor Allison Grant will spend the spring 2021 semester researching and building a body of environmental photography for an upcoming exhibition around the topic of climate change. ASPIRE enables assistant professors in their third year at UA to devote a semester entirely to research.

Allison Grant, “A Chemical Fire Burns 800 Feet from my Children’s School,” 2019, photograph, 36 x 24 inches.

Grant’s work will be part of a grant-funded project, “Dangerous Landscapes,” and will go on exhibit in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in Tuscaloosa in the fall of 2021. The exhibition, whose full title is “Dangerous Landscapes: Legacies of Nineteenth-Century Progress in the Age of Climate Change,” is a Joint Pilot for Arts Research Grant project that includes Grant, Dr. Teresa Cribelli, associate professor of history and principal investigator, and Dr. Joan Barth of UA’s Institute for Social Science Research. The collaborators plan to install an exhibition that places Grant’s photographs alongside illustrations of the American landscape from nineteenth-century print culture collected by Cribelli in her historical research on narratives of progress.

Grant’s artwork has always centered on the environment, evident in a photographic project she has been working on over the last few years, Within the Bittersweet. But her ideas focused more intensely on the future impact of global climate change when she realized how local industrial pollution could directly affect the health of her children. As she explained in a recent interview with Jess T. Dugan of the artist collective Strange Fire, one experience particularly illustrates a moment when it all came together for her:

“One day, as I was driving to pick my kids up, I saw a giant plume of dark smoke right above their school. I knew right away that it was a chemical fire. Later I learned that the fire was at an insecticide facility that handles a chemical called pentachlorophenol. There was a shelter-in-place order in effect in Tuscaloosa when I took the image ‘A Chemical Fire Burns 800 Feet From My Children’s School’ through my car windshield. The experience opened my eyes to the present and made me look more closely at the industrial activities that are happening in the landscape my family lives within.” 

Read more about Assistant Professor Allison Grant’s photography work in themes of climate change, parenting and her children’s future in the interview. And watch this space for announcements about Grant’s exhibition in the fall of 2021.

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.