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Fresh Coast Creatives: Art in the age of climate change with Anne-Marie Oomen

Anne-Marie Oomen in her "think house"
Anne-Marie Oomen in her "think house"

Lots of beaches and lighthouses get painted in northern Michigan. Artists of all sorts here are fascinated with nature. But as the climate changes, so does the art. Anne-Marie Oomen, is a poet and memoirist from Leelanau County responding to climate change in a genre commonly called “climate change art”.

Anne-Marie’s writing studio is a small cabin nestled in the woods that she calls her “think house.” Hundreds of books line the walls – almost like insulation for the cabin. The beams of the structure were reclaimed from her family's barn in Oceana County where she grew up.

All of Anne-Marie’s memoirs take place there, located ninety minutes south of her current residence in Empire – often featuring the county's landscape while weaving it into her stories and memories. The connection to the land, deeply ingrained in her practical farming family, became a central theme in her work.

“It was the earth,” she says. “The land gives us, the land takes us."

Anne-Marie's writing desk, surrounded by pictures of loved ones, overlooks a window which she can see out into the forest. This view into the forest serves as inspiration, allowing her to ponder the relationship between humans and the natural world. Her years of observing trees changing, growing, and dwindling in the woods have made her acutely aware of the interconnectedness of all living beings.

 Anne-Marie Oomen standing outside of her "think house"
Anne-Marie Oomen standing outside of her "think house"

Anne-Marie says she feels a responsibility to address the harsh realities of our changing climate; “to move away now from the really heartfelt and sincere domesticity of living on a piece of land,” she says. When Anne-Marie looks at damage done to the climate, she shares the blame. “I'm part of that,” says Anne-Marie, “All of us are.”

Some of her recent work is a series of short films called "Plague Phase," which explore a near-future world where young children discuss soon-to-be-extinct species, with poets reading about these creatures after each encounter.

Support for Fresh Coast Creatives comes from the Northwest Michigan Arts & Culture Network, inviting you to Fall into the Arts, and through an award from Michigan Arts & Culture Council.