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Environmental Justice is for Artists, Too!

Sadie Quimby

Posted on December 12, 2020 19:47

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The other day, I decided to find some artists who are working with themes of environmental justice since I had been learning about this topic in a class and was wondering how artists could make a difference.

One artist I found was a photographer, Latoya Ruby Frazier, who made a series called “Flint is Family”. Her work on this project illustrates the struggle that artists face in trying to make a real difference with their art. At first, Frazier worked to spread awareness that Flint was still facing issues with water, even after the news stopped covering it.

Then she realized this wasn’t enough, and contributed money to bring an atmospheric water generator made by a brilliant Puerto Rican man, Moses, all the way from Texas to Flint. Frazier didn’t cover all of the cost: her contribution was matched by a grant. This story shows that individuals, including artists, have the power to affect great change, but at the same time we still need the help of institutions. 

Another artist I found is Zaria Forman, who does these amazing realistic pastel drawings. I love her art because it’s gorgeous and also inspires me to work more with pastel. Also, her drawings document climate change. 

I think this documentation is valuable in its own way: not every work of art will change the world, but even spreading greater awareness of climate change through art is helpful. Not every artist works through direct activism as ultimately art must be driven by the particular passions of individuals. Documenting events, actively changing things with art, educating others, and reaching out to open peoples’ minds through art are all ways to make a difference.

A third artist is Aleshia Lonsdale, an Indigenous Australian whose land art, "Disambiguation", shows the history of the land from the Dreaming to colonialism to modern coal mining. This is the side of art which focuses on the social part of environmental justice and emphasizes the interconnectedness of everything. 

People are inextricably connected to the environment, so we need artists whose work tackles the reality that what harms the natural places around us hurts us too.

One of the principles of environmental justice is about prioritizing social and environmental issues in public education, but having art that educates people of all ages is also very important.

Art connects people across our barriers. Media, like books and tv, puts us into the lives of people who aren’t like us and helps us become more open and empathetic. Visual arts, such as drawing, painting, and sculpture, meanwhile, provoke thought or conversation around important topics and can educate people as well.

 

 

Sadie Quimby

Posted on December 12, 2020 19:47

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