Marda Kirn

Marda Kirn

INSTAAR Affiliate

  • Founding Director, EcoArts Connections


Working with EcoArts Connections to bring together people from all walks of life to understand the realities of climate change and celebrate the delights of sustainability – in transformative programs sparked by the arts.


Marda Kirn is the founding director of EcoArts Connections (EAC), a producing, presenting, consulting, and service organization that brings visual, performing, and other  arts together with science, social justice, and other fields to inspire sustainable living while finding new roles for the arts in the face of global change.

Previously, Kirn was the founding director of the Colorado Dance Festival, considered one of the top three dance festivals in the US during her 14-year tenure (1982–96), known nationally for innovation and quality programming. She was also a founder of the International Tap Association and served as its executive director for five years before founding EAC.

Kirn has received numerous awards, among them the Colorado Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts; Western Alliance of Arts Administrators Distinguished Service Award; Colorado Dance Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award; Carson-Brierly Dance Library Legends of Dance in Colorado Award; and NYC Tap City Tap Preservation Award.  More recently she was awarded the first University of Colorado Creative Climate Communication Prize and was among the five first Dairy Arts Center Honors awardees. Kirn has written for national publications including the Dance/USA Journal, Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, Dance Magazine, the National Endowment for the Arts web site, Denver Post, Daily Camera, Colorado Daily, and Westword.

Kirn has lectured on dance/the arts for many organizations; has served on grants panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Science Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Western States Arts Federation, among many others; and has been a speaker/panelist and/or consultant for organizations in the US, Europe, Latin America, and Asia. She has spoken at numerous conferences about the benefits of arts, science, and sustainability collaborations, among them: American Alliance of Museums; American Association for Performing Arts Presenters; American Solar Energy Society; Dance/USA; Theatre Communications Group; the UCAR 50th Anniversary Forum; Behavior, Energy, and Climate Conference; Conference on Communication and Environment; Geological Society of America; and the Ecoarts Australis conference in Wollongong NSW, Australia; and upcoming in 2016 at COP22 in Marrakech and the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

At the University of Colorado Kirn has given talks for and/or collaborated with the CU Art Museum; Museum of Natural History; Department of Theatre & Dance; Program in Environmental Design; School of Journalism; Entrepreneurship Center for Music; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Environmental Studies; and Religious Studies. She is on the Advisory Boards of the Albert A. Bartlett Science Communication Center and the Community Engagement, Design, and Research Center (CEDaR), and on the Steering Committee of Growing Up Boulder.


Research Statement

AIR mural by students working with EcoArts Connections hangs at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) as part of a climate exhibit.

EcoArts Connections’ mission is to bring the arts together with science, social justice, and other fields to deepen public understanding of global change and speed the shift to sustainable living.

EAC was founded to create a new role for the arts in addressing environmental crises and is based on social science research that demonstrates that effective action requires a combination of cognition and affect (mind and heart) working together, rather than separately or alone.  EAC brings together the affective power of the arts with the cognitive power of science, social justice, and other fields in activities designed to make sustainability personal, visceral, and actionable, and to move people—emotionally and physically—to live more sustainably. In this way, EAC working with its collaborators, reaches more people more effectively and beyond the “already convinced” sustainability choir than either an only-cognitive or only-affective approach can do alone.

EAC commissions, produces, presents, and consults on a wide variety of activities including performances, exhibits, talks, tours, workshops, panel discussions, youth programs, conferences, and symposia, that have been held in venues such as museums, theaters, schools, coal-fired power plants, buses, and gardens, among others. EAC activities have been presented locally in Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins, and nationally in Seattle, Indianapolis, Washington, DC, and New York City. Audiences include people of all ages, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, and persuasions.

EAC has worked with professional artists of regional, national, and international stature in visual art, dance, theatre, poetry, media, and music. EAC activities have received media coverage in local print and electronic media and in national media, including the New York Times, Art in America, Dance Magazine, Washington Post, and the Voice of America.

Collaborators have included art and natural history museums, performing arts presenters, city planners, energy and transportation specialists, schools, government agencies, environmental groups, and university departments, among others. Through working in collaboration, thinking “eco-systemically,” and sharing and leveraging resources, EAC and its collaborators are able to do much more together than any single entity could do alone.