Communicating cold, dry facts doesn’t encourage people to care more about the environment. But art can – by engaging our hearts instead of our minds. Art is increasingly being used as a tool to raise awareness of conservation issues. This blog features three projects that meld art with powerful conservation messages.
The need for a personal touch
As argued in Wendy Harmer’s recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald:
Data and graphs aren’t getting the climate change message across in Australia. It’s time for a more personal touch.
Factual communication about the declining health of our planet is causing people to switch off. We need more creative approaches that tell stories, stir the heart, and inspire people to take positive action.
Here’s where art can help. Art can vividly communicate environmental issues; it can strike a chord with the public in a very different way to typical education methods.
Art makes us feel. Creative conservationist Asher Jay says that:
The power of art is that it can transcend differences, connect with people on a visceral level, and compel action.
Here are just a few examples that show how art can be a powerful mechanism for raising environmental awareness.
Ghost Nets Australia
Discarded fishing lines – known as “ghost nets” – kill many thousands of marine animals each year.
But aboriginal communities in the Gulf or Carpentaria and Torres Strait are transforming these deadly nets into beautiful works of art. This has proven to be a great way to alert the public to the damage inflicted on turtles, sharks, cetaceans and other marine animals by ghost nets.
Ghost net sculptures are becoming increasingly displayed in museums, galleries and installations in Australia and around the world.
Yesterday I was at the Australian Museum admiring Dauma and Garom, a 6-metre ghost net sculpture by artists from Darnley Island (see picture above). The work tells the story of Dauma the mudcrab, and Garom the rock cod. The two creatures spend so much time gazing at each other in a shallow pool that they fall in love and get married.
Street Art in London
Street artist Louis Masai has created a series of murals in urban London to highlight species loss within the UK. The campaign, in conjunction with charity Synchronicity Earth, marks the IUCN Red List’s 50th anniversary this year.
Masaa’s vivid portraits include declining species – including the hedgehog and house sparrow; pest species such as Topmouth Gudgeon fish and Ring-necked Parakeet; and recovering species as the Common Crane. They aim to raise greater consciousness about human impact on UK wildlife. They are certainly eye-catching!
Mundaring Environmental Art Awards
Participatory art projects can also help engage the community in environmental stewardship activities.
For example, The Mundaring Environmental Art Award is an annual event featuring the original artworks of hundreds of primary school students from Western Australia. Selected students paint large scale banners that for display at the Mundaring town centre.
It aims to enhance awareness of local and global environmental issues and provide creative opportunities for young artists. Each year focuses on a different theme. The 2013 theme was “Protecting Our Iconic Animals”.
Feature image: Turtle, made by Ellarose Savage in 2012 from ghost nets. Photographer: Rebecca Fisher. Rights:© Australian Museum