CCI Arts, Science & Conservation Programme

‘[Art is not solely], a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.’ Bertold Brecht

Black winged myna and Bali Starling c. BeatriceForshall

Artists inspire new ways of looking at, listening to, and engaging with science, and have an extraordinary capacity to create encounters with the natural world that are memorable. From musicians to poets, painters to dancers, collaborations between artists and scientists have the ability to transform the way we portray and undertake conservation.

Working closely with artists is a core ambition and, since the CCI moved into its new home in the David Attenborough Building, collaborations have flourished and brought environmental artists, authors, poets, painters and printmakers, photographers, theatre makers, and others into close contact with the CCI network to create new work and exhibitions which help influence the ways in which conservation activities are developed.

Collaborators include: Robert Macfarlane, John Kinsella, Kathleen Jamie and Ruth Padel, Beatrice Forshall, Elizabeth Butterworth, and Jonathan Kingdon

Image – Breaking Point exhibition, Museum of Zoology, July 2021, Sophie Busch


All of our projects respond to the biodiversity challenges that our world currently faces and explore the role that culture and contemporary arts practice can play in inviting exchange, dialogue and debate around these critical issues.

Our residencies and projects aim to give artists both time and space to collaborate, through practice-based research, with transdisciplinary teams of conservationists and scientists based at the David Attenborough Building in Cambridge. Residencies are frequently experimental and interdisciplinary in nature, often resulting in a public programme which may include participatory installations, exhibitions and symposia.

All of these encounters and interventions invite audiences to creatively engage and reflect on how we can individually and collectively live sustainably with our planet. A selection of our projects can be seen here.


The Endangered Landscapes Artist Residencies

The arts and cultural practice are a powerful means of reawakening our sense of the familiar, connecting to the past, and exploring possible futures. They play a pivotal role in addressing environmental challenges and are a compelling route into understanding how people are connected to landscape.

Engraving the Red List – Beatrice Forshall

Beatrice Forshall is an artist and print maker who specialises in dry point engraving. During her residency at CCI, Forshall worked alongside researchers, policy makers and specialist practitioners from across the CCI partnership. Her work focused on a series of species that are threatened by global trade, ranging from the iconic Black Rhino Diceros bicornis, at risk because of trade in horn, to Sunda Pangolin Manis javanica, and on to far less well known species, such as the Tanzanian Whip Scorpion Damon variegatus which is widely collected for the pet trade.

Seeing Red.. Overdrawn – Ackroyd & Harvey 2018

The writing is on the wall. Yet the text is printed very faintly. Members of the public and conservationists connected with the David Attenborough Building were invited, one at a time, to make their mark by over-writing with indelible pen the name of one of the species, drawing attention to it, and bringing it to visibility.

The Factory of the Future (We know not what we may be) - Zoë Svendsen

As part of a residency at the David Attenborough Building, Zoë Svendsen, Dramaturg and Artistic Director of METIS, transformed CCI’s Artist’s Studio into THE FACTORY OF THE FUTURE (WE KNOW NOT WHAT WE MAY BE) – an installation for storytelling, interaction and experimentation that explores challenges surrounding a transformative future.

Lines of Migration - Matt Howard

In 2020 we were delighted to welcome poet and conservationist, Matt Howard, as an artist-in residence. In collaboration with John Fanshawe and organisations within CCI, Matt developed Lines of Migration – a poetry translation project that aims to bring together poets and poems, both contemporary and from the past, that engage with nature and place.

Evolution as Inspiration - Jonathan Kingdon

A collaboration between artist, zoologist and author Jonathan Kingdon, the Arts, Science and Conservation Programme at CCI, and the Museum of Zoology, Evolution as Inspiration explored a lifetime of observations in nature.

CCI Arts exhibitions

Since the CCI moved into its new home in the David Attenborough Building, collaborations with artists have flourished. The impact of these collaborations is far reaching with many involved saying the experience continues to influence their work long after the project has finished.

Some of these projects result in exhibitions – one of the many ways which enable the general public to engage with, and be inspired by, the resulting work.

Find out more

Special Projects

The annual Rialto Nature And Place Poetry Competition

The RSPB, BirdLife International and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative working in collaboration with Poetry Magazine The Rialto.

Owned by Everyone

A discussion on the urgent crisis facing the chalk streams and reflection on all that should be wonderful about them. This unique conference returns for the second time convening scientists, conservationists, artists, anglers, lawyers - experts from all walks of life ready to overcome differences, be inspired by new perspectives and to collectively find ways to protect our precious chalk streams.