Science Music: A climate of collaboration

by Brent Cole

photo by Thadeus Hink

Long-time part-time resident Karen Kunkel is back in town working on a new creative endeavor, Science Musicm a show mixing music, art, performance and science in an attempt to uniquely educate people about the current environmental climate crisis.

Bringing together scientists, environment educators, climate allies, students in any field of science, and political activists, Karen is working to educate people about the climate crisis utilizing a unique approach – through entertainment. The show will be a mix of performing artists and those in scientific fields together in a vaudeville style show while “weaving the two worlds together with shared conceptual/abstract themes; raise money for local environmentally active non-profits,” Karen said.

“I’ve been thinking for a couple years now how great it would be if a few artists got together and collaborated with a few scientists to present brand new works of art that simultaneously brought a different emotional/spiritual/story telling lens to scientific theories and knowledge, and was likely educational at the same time,” Karen said. “This first episode will be collaborative between performers and presenters, but everyone has been prompted with the theme of “water” literally and figuratively.”

The hope for Science Music shows are that they’ll be held each month at a different location with a different theme.

For Karen, the series marks her seemingly yearly return to Bellingham. A Western graduate who was raised in the Okanangon, Karen played in the criminally underrated Four Players and has performed in town – either in theatre or music – for over a decade.

“I’ve been coming and going to Bellingham for gosh, 12 or 13 years now?,” she said, “I’ve gone and lived other places and traveled. The last three winters I’ve gone to New Orleans for the dancing, performance art and all-round full spectrum magic. I returned to B’ham in July to perform in Subdued Stringband Jamboree and Sh’bang! and reconnect, like I do almost every summer, with the amazing communities I have here!”

While not in Bellingham, Karen continues performing where she travels. “Music, performance art, burlesque, radical public truth-telling,” are part of her life, adding, “basically, as I travel, studying all the various ways people tell their stories, the stories themselves, and what they reveal about the meaning people find in this awesome experience as a human on earth.  Around these parts I can be found at various stages singing my narrative folk opera and psychdelic philosophic poetic musical pieces while my friend Orion Lackey, wizard of the keys, plays piano. I like to hand out introspective and inspirational questionnarres to the audience – every show has a different theme.”

She’s quick to note, though, while she may leave again again in the winter, Karen is confident the event can keep going if initially successful.

The endeavor doesn’t rest solely on Karen’s shoulder’s; she’s enlisted a few friends already for the debut performance. “Art monk Megan Yates will be presenting some music, as will theater artist and alt-opera singer Madeline McNeill.  Movement artist Jesus Garcia will be presenting a mixed media performance, as will Claudia Bernal who is known for her amazing water color paintings inspired by nature,” with more to be announced soon.

“We want people to leave inspired, transformed; fed intellectually, spiritually and emotionally; changed by their political action and their own thoughts, with knowledge of how they themselves can move forward in changing themselves, changing their communities, and helping heal the environment.”

Catch the first Science Music show on Oct. 11 at the Alternative Library. Karen can be reached at