Art Can Save The World
What role does art play in the climate crisis?
Why should we as artists and cultural organisations take action, as a generally underfunded sector with a smaller carbon emissions impact than other sectors like transport or agriculture? We have other issues to address, why should it be us?
Because… it all intersects. We can’t have climate justice without social justice and racial justice, and vice versa. We ALL need to start thinking about our carbon emissions. We ALL need to change. A huge, cultural shift needs to happen if we’re going to prevent further irreversible climate breakdown. And there’s a keyword there – culture.
Who drives culture? We do! The artists, the musicians, the museums, the film makers, the theatres, the festivals and so on.
Cultural leaders have a huge part to play in advocating for climate, social and racial justice. We can lead the way through the work that we create, as well as how we create it. We can influence cultural change and with that, policy change.
As Hidden Spire Creative Collective writer Lucy said, ‘people can’t be told, they need to feel.’ Art makes people feel. Art has the power to save the world.
On 5th April 2022, Green Arts Oxfordshire Network hosted a day to kick off ‘Marmalade‘ at the Old Fire Station, bringing together Oxfordshire’s cultural organisations, artists and anybody wanting to respond creatively to the climate crisis.
In a session called ‘Art Can Save The World’, participants collectively reimagined how we produce creative projects in response to the climate and ecological crisis. Together, we explored how to move from anxiety and denial to optimism and activism.
During the session, participants imagined creative projects that respond to categories of the Green Arts Charter, a 10 point pledge and guide on how to collectively work towards climate justice and a zero-carbon future.
Activist, designer and artist Siân Klein hosted a banner making workshop during the session using recycled plastic bags that participants had been asked to bring with them beforehand. People, words and plastic bags flew around the room, and community artwork was created. The banners we made are a creative response to words and phrases from the conversations that took place, imagining the ways that art could save the world.
We tried to apply the cornerstones of the charter to the event itself, choosing sustainable options wherever possible, utilising the power of the network. The heat press used was borrowed from a member of the Oxford community, using Pedal and Post to deliver it from Littlemore to the Old Fire Station with zero-emissions. The heat proof gloves were borrowed from Flo’s The Place in the Park, by foot.
The banners were strung up at the Old Fire Station for the rest of the week, before we took the conversation and the artwork created from it outside to the streets! Fusion Arts displayed them in their #WindowGalleries for the rest of April.
The #WindowGalleries is an exciting project that creates innovative exhibitions in windows along Friars Entry in Oxford. It is a collaboration between Fusion Arts and the Randolph Hotel by Graduate Hotels that aims to connect and support Oxford’s communities, creating a lively space for the public to experience inspiring work by local artists. Rejuvenating the area in this manner helps bring vibrancy and intrigue to the otherwise empty windows that so many people pass by each day – now a fun way to engage with new art!
In the spirit of recycling and uplifting voices on climate action, we exhibited the banners created for a third time at Modern Art Oxford and Oxford Brookes University’s Glass Tank gallery, as part of Adapt Transform.
The Adapt Transform exhibition looks at community experiences of urban design that impact the transformation of places over time. It brings together a range of lived experiences to explore how the planning and design of cities affects the way we live. It’s another great example of how art can advocate for a better world, and we are very proud to have been a part of it.
We’ll leave you with the takeaways people shared at the end of the Art Can Save The World session in April. Here’s some of the things you said when we asked…
What will you do differently:
- Include the rest of the world – we are in the same boat
- Find out about other local art projects related to climate
- Connect Collaborate Create
- Consider the elements of the charter in every project / action
- Work in partnership – community groups
- Focus energy and attention on what really matters
- Get informed, make something, talk to more people, more often… Act decisively! Connect community level action with bigger structures
- Be more proactive in going to Climate Crisis initiatives in Oxford + engaging with the charter
- Doing Differently: Look to work with new partners/networks
- Reach out to other artists, creatives, thinkers and writers! 😊 more time, NRG devoted to this
- Dream pragmatically
- PLURALIST ACTIVITY plus INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS = MUTUAL PROGRESS!
- Start more conversations about sustainability + climate action
- Link the climate crisis to creativity and the arts much more
What do you need?
- Time, space, support, network + team
- CREATIVE IDEAS
- Info on the steps I can take to make a real difference
- To be nudged and encouraged
- More group support
- Open mind and imagination and support from likeminded organisations
- I need spaces to get people together, To do community project work. Workable buildings or a room?!
- Work Quicker / Be more GREEN / Do more in the arts
- Continue making connections and spreading the word to new communities
- Time to think and discuss about our impacts
- A better understanding of carbon costs/energy costs of buildings and energy systems. A consultant or instructional.
- … A plan!
- Capacity, finding space & KNOWLEDGE
- HOPE INSPIRATION
- Find communities, Listen, share, adapt
- Confidence, community
- Time and Patience, Bravery and Resources
What will you do differently? What do you need?
Join the Green Arts Oxfordshire Network by signing the charter to play your part in tackling the climate crisis.
About the artist:
Siân Klein is a BA Fine Art and Film Studies graduate from Oxford Brookes University, currently studying MA Graphic Design at Brighton University. She is a freelance Graphic Designer and active Creatives Coordinator of XR Brighton, where she creates protest artwork and coordinates creative events. Siân uses recycled or second-hand materials and rubbish in her work, which is often text based and influenced by collective action to implement change.