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Putnam Co. Museum Exhibit Creating Conversation, Controversy

Artwork and poetry from local artists precedes 88 Cores (shown here). (Brock Turner, WFIU/WTIU News)

An exhibit that has been on display at the United Nations and New York City’s Climate Museum is checking in for an extended stay in Greencastle.

88 Cores, from artist Peggy Weil, allows viewers to descend deep into the Greenland Ice Sheet. Displays from local artists serve as an entry point. Visitors then enter a theater constructed specifically for the exhibit.

“There’s nothing like this done in Indiana,” Martha Updahl, a local artist and the exhibit’s creator says. “None of the museums or art venues have head-on addressed climate change. The other unusual aspect is that we’re using art to do it. It’s not a science show, it’s an art show.”

Updahl says when she first heard about the exhibit she knew she wanted to bring it to Putnam County.

“I didn’t know exactly how to go about it, I just decided I was going to do it,” Updahl says she wanted to reach the local community, instead of nearby DePauw University. “I wanted to reach the local community because I think that’s where it’s got to be turned around,” she says.

While the city of Greencastle has a Democratic mayor, Putnam County is reliably conservative.

Lisa Mock, the Putnam County Museum's executive director, says some in the community, including one museum board member, believes the exhibit brings politics into the space. That's not how Mock sees it.

"I had to examine that, 'Am I bringing politics in here?'" she asks. "Some people might see it that way or some people may think that way but they haven’t even come in to see it."

While Mock admits she’s heard some critical feedback, she’s optimistic folks can put their political beliefs aside and enjoy the exhibit for what it is, art. She says outsiders should not assume how a rural, largely conservative county, will react to climate change.

"I have been humbled by my own assumptions and stereotypes that I carry in my head about how some folks might react and I have been pleastly surprised," she says.

The exhibit will remain in Greencastle through the end of the month. 

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