Emiliana Reinoso '24 is the recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship award. Emiliana Reinoso ‘24 is the recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship award.

By engaging with communities already grappling with the consequences of climate change, Reinoso will be investigating the role art plays in interpersonal connection and increased community resilience, and “how communities are articulating themselves and their identities in the face of climate change,” she said.

She’ll be traveling from South America to Europe to Oceania, using the 21,000-mile journey to learn how underrepresented peoples demand their voices be heard and how she can bring this knowledge back to her home country of Chile.

“The climate crisis is not only about environmental conservation; it is a crisis of relationships.” 

“The climate crisis is not only about environmental conservation; it is a crisis of relationships,” Reinoso said. “I think a big part of what motivates me to do this project is to try to be able to create connections, to connect the dots between what different people are talking about in different territories, and to be able to provide a platform for different stories through art practices and help create a network of people.”

Reinoso’s passion for social justice began over the dinner table in Valparaiso, where her family regularly spoke about issues affecting the local community. “There were constant issues in the community that we were trying to understand or figure out,” she said.

Emiliana Reinoso '24, Printing the Possible, Untitled, 2024, Linocut (reduction). Emiliana Reinoso '24, Printing the Possible, Untitled, 2024, Linocut (reduction).She reflected on attending community gatherings every Sunday after lunch, where people brought stories, music, and dances. “I learned there that telling a story is a powerful tool, and it does not cost much. This is a lesson I will carry with me as I visit communities at the frontline of climate change and listen to their stories,” she said.

This motivation has led her to the Watson Fellowship, a one-year grant allowing awardees to follow an idea across the world in a challenging, unusual, and sustained opportunity for personal and political growth. Watson fellows receive a $40,000 stipend and are required to actively travel, learn, and meet new people over the course of the entire year. She’s the 39th COA graduate to have earned the award.

“Emiliana is fearless to the extent that she can express herself in ways that challenge the groupthink that sometimes can be a default in certain quarters of academic life and the climate justice community,” said COA Allan Stone Chair in the Visual Arts Catherine Clinger. “She has a sense of humor; however, this belies the seriousness with which she approaches her course of study.”

Reinoso’s project, entitled Climate Ecologies: Weaving Stories Through Art, will begin in July, in Uruguay, where she’ll be working with an independent NGO dedicated to the understanding, action, and promotion of social ecology. “I am curious to learn about their multidisciplinary approach to alternatives to ‘development’ in Latin America and collaborate with them in the articulation of ecological thinking,” she said, adding that she hopes to work with them to find visual ways of connecting communal stories.

Emiliana Reinoso '24, Printing the Possible, Untitled, 2024, Etching on paper. Emiliana Reinoso '24, Printing the Possible, Untitled, 2024, Etching on paper.Then, in September, she’ll travel to Brazil, where she’ll immerse herself in two local organizations that promote art, science, and agroecological education in rural areas and those set aside for environmental preservation. “They believe that rural areas are spaces for thought generation,” she said. “They pay attention to the rural imagination, which has been devastated by large economic and industrial structures.”

Working with those organizations, Reinoso plans to learn about local food systems through art workshops and sociopolitical community activities. After that, she’ll head to the coast, where she’ll collaborate with an organization that she said has “a vision of a world in which society is structured through affection, cooperation, collaboration, and the defense of life in all its forms.”

From December through February, she’ll be spending time in the Yasuni National Park in Ecuador, where two Waorani Indigenous groups have chosen voluntary isolation from Western culture. Here she’ll work with one of the most well known environmental protection groups in Latin America, who have defended the rights of nature in the Amazonian basin for the last 40 years. Her work will focus on learning about how local activist organizations helped keep a billion barrels of oil from being extracted in the national park.

Finally, her passion will bring her to New Zealand, where she’ll intertwine herself with a group of  Māori women who create large-scale, fiber-based artworks about the complexities of the contemporary Māori reality. “I want to learn from the ways in which they are weaving intergenerational knowledge to address ecological issues through art,” she said.

Emiliana Reinoso '24, Printing the Possible, Untitled, 2024, Etching on paper. Emiliana Reinoso '24, Printing the Possible, Untitled, 2024, Etching on paper.Reinoso’s interest in using art to articulate ecological and social demands really began when she joined a women’s collective in Valparaiso, called Teatranza, she said. “Being part of Teatranza made me feel like I could be vulnerable and express my political voice. I belonged to a community. Together, we could make art and weave our stories. It was empowering; it was both personal and political.”

She said that her interest in using art to articulate ecological and social demands really began when she joined a women’s collective in Valparaiso, called Teatranza. “Being part of Teatranza made me feel like I could be vulnerable and express my political voice. I belonged to a community. Together, we could make art and weave our stories. It was empowering; it was both personal and political,” she said.

“These social issues started to take an ecological shape when I started studying at COA, and I started to realize that a lot of the time, socio-economic problems are connected to ecological problems such as water scarcity and food accessibility problems.”

Clinger is excited to see Reinoso build “the foundation for new networks that leverage the creative to counter the destructive without eliding the local,” she said. “Emiliana will accomplish enough in the potent itinerary she has designed—the greater accomplishment will come through the continuities she can establish through the seeds she will carry from one place to the other in the following decades.”