MIA HANAK, Founder of Natural World Museum, and Founder & Executive Director of Millennium ART

Floating on the still sea of Copenhagen, three-storeys of shipping containers stack together to render the invisible into an atmospheric cube of light. “CO2 CUBES: Visualise a Tonne of Change” was a site-specific digital-media-art installation for the UN Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen (COP15, 2009). The sheer size of the cube – one metric tonne – with its gas-cloud colours and textual facts, helped the viewer visualise his or her own individual CO2 footprint (one metric tonne every two weeks is the average emission for an individual in the so-called developed world).

Courtesy of Bella Gaia1

CO2 Cube Installation for COP15, 2009

When Mia Hanak states, “The world is our museum,” she is not referring to dinosaurs roaming about. Her flare for innovative installation art has earned her opportunities to work with some of the world’s pre-eminent pro-environmental organisations: the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), National Geographic, Conservation International and the Beijing Olympics, where Mia’s first non-profit, Natural World Museum, curated a major environmental art expo. As evidenced by the CO2 CUBE, Mia and her Millennium ART non-profit believe in the power of beauty to trigger action and change, as opposed to the fear-based approach that too often confronts the audience: “The environmental movement has been very ‘in your face’… so much so that people are numb to it.” Beauty has the ability to be provocative and inspiring, and − unlike shock-tactics − can lead to more positive, long-term solutions.

What set Mia on the path to an art-environmental career? She was born into an artistic family that nurtured her creativity and sensitivity to the world around her. At university she majored in Art History and Cultural Anthropology, and when she graduated she ventured with her backpack off the-beaten track to experience firsthand the cultures of more than forty countries. In search of adventure, she was hit by the fragility of the environment and the devastation caused by humanity: “I lived with the people of Kenya for over half a year, I made my way through the jungles of Mexico, and in Madagascar I witnessed great swathes of deforestations that left me outraged.” As a result, she radically changed her lifestyle, getting rid of her car, recycling her mobile phones and TV and now uses public transportation and eats organic food.

Mia believes there is no time to spare and that every minute of her life should be dedicated to positively educating people about their impact on the planet. A curator is also an artist, except other artists and their artworks are the medium and message she uses to educate and inspire action. In a short video recorded for the ongoing Global Oneness Project, she talked about the very important role of the artist:

Artists are the voice of the natural world that provides them with an inspiring space in which they can submerse themself. Artists collaborate with their environments to create a visual result of their relationship with the world around them. By sharing the work of art with the public, artists provide new ways of ‘seeing’ and speaking about challenging topics. They help create change.

For impact, art must be approachable. Through sheer persistency and courage (two essential traits for a social-entrepreneur), The Natural World Museum entered the spotlight in 2005, and within four months Mia had organised an “Urban Jungle” exhibition to run parallel with the UN-sponsored World Environment Day. To achieve success in such a limited amount of time, Mia admits that her work required considerable sacrifice – throughout the process she worked 100 hours per week. What gave her that stamina? She answers, “the raw energy of nature inspires me enough to compensate for little sleep and food.”

In 2010 Mia focussed on her new business, Millennium ART that boomed after her (and her team’s) curation of the COP15 CUBE. The publicity has meant that even in 2013, she is still focusing all her efforts on addressing the pressing issues of our time. Her next initiative is to organise art exhibits that can be replicated in museums all over the world (so that the art does not have to rack travel miles and CO2 footprints.

Additional Quotes

“A global citizen is someone who has respect for the world, has respect in the actions they take,  and understands the repercussions that occur with the decision that they make.”

A true global citizen should ask him or herself, “what am I going to give back?”

The transition from Natural World Museum to Millenium Art


Due to the economic crisis in October 2008, the Natural World Museum’s board of directors felt that it would be too challenging to continue fundraising to support the programs and management of a nonprofit organization, and therefore the board members made a decision to shut down operations at the end of 2008. As the founder of Natural World Museum, I was not in agreement with the decisions made by the board, as I believe where there is a will there’s a way, however, their decision making powers were out of my hands. After serving as the Executive Director of the Natural World Museum for eight years, in early 2009, I started building a new team and a new entity, which would become Millennium ART, incorporated in March 2010.  During the “start-up” phase in 2009, Millennium ART and its team created the “CO2 Cube” in Copenhagen during COP15, and this set the stage for Millennium ART to continue working on cause-related projects in collaboration with the United Nations. With Millennium ART, I had an opportunity to focus on a broader spectrum of some of the most pressing fundamental issues of our time, whereas with the Natural World Museum we mainly focused on bringing attention to environmental issues and solutions. Millennium ART designs exhibitions, experiences, and communications campaigns that engage diverse audiences in social progress towards a peaceful, equitable, and sustainable future.




Country: USA

Type of Education: BA, Majors in Art History and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Santa Barbara; Masters in Museum studies: Museum management and exhibition design at Tufts University.

Awards: Named, “Iconic Museum Leader of the Next Generation” by the American Association of Museums and the Getty Leadership Institute

Foundation Affiliation: n/a

Pathway to Impact: Path of Passion

Impact Area/s: Health – Access to clean air & water

Organisation Type: Non-profit; Social Enterprise

Facts & Figures: In 2007, Mia published  Art in Action: Nature, Creativity and Our Collective Future.

Other Media

Mia talks about the relationship between art and the environment in 6 short videos as part of the global oneness project.

An interview with Arthur Bruzzone, 2007

About the author Helena Rosebery

After completing a Master of Communication (Food & Culture) from Slow Food’s University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy, Helena Rosebery followed her heart to Zürich where she is inspired everyday by the resilience and greenness of her home-grown herbs. Helena employs words and coloured pencils to professionally communicate all that is – and is not – in the pursuit of a more ethical world.

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