Perils of climate change highlights Beacon College art exhibit

Artist Kate Helms has merged science and art into a compelling look at the perils of ignoring climate change. Her latest exhibit, “Rise,” is on display at the Kristen Michelle Mason Art Gallery at Beacon College in downtown Leesburg.

“Rise” revolves around a fantasy of global warming-inspired sea level rise that ravages and sinks into the ocean an ornate home. After a time, the submerged chateau becomes an artificial reef for a variety of barnacle, coral and sponge-like encrustations. Unlike widespread coral bleaching — which is destroying vast swaths of coral reefs — Kate says these new species spontaneously evolve to thrive in the changing environment.

“In this visual environment, ravenous marine sponges evolve with sharp teeth, eager to devour newly sunken habitats, and mangroves sprout human feet to assume a march inland as the waters rise,” the artist, a fifth-generation Floridian and environmental scientist, says in a press release. “It’s a vision both beautiful and terrifying, presented in hopes to generate a sort of sublime epiphany that as the waters rise, our status as an apex species, particularly in coastal environments, becomes uncertain.”

She serves as stormwater program administrator for the city of Largo, where she oversees stormwater pollution prevention efforts. She has worked on Everglades restoration, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, oyster restoration, wetlands mitigation, and compliance and enforcement with environmental regulations as a member of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Kate earned bachelor degrees in both environmental science and art, and her master of fine arts in sculpture from the University of Florida.

She has exhibited at the Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala, Boca Raton and Alexandria Museums of Art, as well as at galleries both domestic and abroad. “Rise” runs through Dec. 8 at the Kristen Michelle Mason Art Gallery, 103 East Main St., Leesburg. The free exhibition is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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From paintings to installation art to performance pieces, the Kristin Michelle Mason Art Gallery at Beacon College displays the work of students, faculty, and professional artists.  Exhibitions are free and open to the public.

Founded in 1989, Beacon College, a nonprofit liberal arts college, is America’s first higher education institution accredited to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students with learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning differences. Ranked among the Top 10 Florida colleges or universities in 2017 by Bestcolleges.com and ranked the #1 college for students with disabilities by BestValueSchools in its 2017-18 rankings, Beacon is nationally recognized as a superior institution for accommodating and preparing students who learn differently to prosper in a global economy.

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