MTC Sponsors Climate-Change Art Contest

Bay Area youth ages 13 to 23 are invited to participate in a photo and video contest launched last month by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

The Bay Area will face many issues and challenges due to climate change over the next 30 years. MTC and ABAG have launched a contest to receive input from young people who will be most affected. Photo courtesy of MTC


Published: March, 2019


Bay Area youth ages 13 to 23 are invited to participate in a photo and video contest launched last month by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).


The agencies asked young people to use their creative brains to communicate what they believe can be done on a personal, community and regional level to combat climate change. Submissions for “Art on the Horizon: Youth Confronting Climate Changeare being accepted until Friday, March 22 via the contest’s webpage.


Raquel Trinidad with MTC/ABAG’s Legislation & Public Affairs department, who helped organize the contest, points to a pending legal case filed in Oregon as evidence of young people’s awareness of the problem. The case was filed on behalf of 21 youths, ages 11 to 22, who are demanding the government take action to fight climate change. The plaintiffs make the argument that the administration’s failure to act thus far violates their “fundamental constitutional rights to freedom from deprivation of life, liberty, and property.”


“Societal change always comes from younger generations,” Trinidad said. “And young people today are very aware of the challenges we all face. Climate change is very real to them. And they’re not only thinking about the future, their future; they’re actually taking the reins on a lot of local efforts.”


The contest is part of a larger strategy by MTC/ABAG to engage young people and harness the energy building around environmental issues. MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine Bay Area counties. ABAG is the official regional planning agency for the nine counties and 101 cities and towns of the Bay Area. The two agencies merged in late 2017. MTC and ABAG traditionally host an annual youth-oriented sustainability conference. The conference took a year off this year, but Trinidad hopes to incorporate the contest into the next conference.


“We’re passionate about giving these young people a place at the table, a voice,” Trinidad said.


And that strategy is part of an even larger effort to explore issues and challenges that Bay Area residents will face over the next 30-plus years. The agency’s “Horizon Initiative” started in early 2018, when Bay Areans were asked, “What are the most pressing issues we should consider as we plan for life in 2050?” Clean air and water, as well as protecting natural resources, ranked high on the list. Art on the Horizon was a response to that feedback.


News about environmental issues skews overwhelmingly negative, so Trinidad hopes to mitigate any hopelessness young people may feel about the world they’re inheriting by giving them a platform to address their concerns and come up with creative solutions.


“There are a lot of sad narratives out there,” she said. “We’d like to inspire some creative optimism. And photo and video is a language they already speak. Young people are all over social media, so this is something they’re already doing in their day-to-day lives.”


Submissions will be divided into two age groups—13-17 years old and 18-23 years old—and reviewed by a jury comprised of MTC/ABAG representatives and art professionals. The submissions will be judged on how well they address climate change, creativity, quality and technique.


Winners will be announced at an event to be held on the UC Berkeley campus on April 25, as well as through social media channels. Cash awards will be given to the first, second and third place winners. Trinidad hopes to also organize an art show to display all of the work submitted.


“We hope that they will show us a path forward, that change is possible,” said MTC/ABAG Deputy Executive Director for Policy Alix Bockelman in a written statement.


“We’ve only received a few submissions so far but based on how good they are I think we’re going to have a really tough time choosing a winner,” Trinidad said. “I’m really excited.


For more information about Art on the Horizon: Youth Confronting Climate Change, visit

Bay Area youth from ages 13 to 23 are being asked to communicate what can be done to combat climate change. Photo by Kingmond Young

Young people today are very aware of the challenges that climate change presents when looking towards the future. Photo courtesy of MTC