30 Oct, 2020
There is considerable disagreement as to what the real concept or function of art would be. Although many may see pieces of art as decorative items, a significant number of artists and scholars question this idea and think that the impact of art goes beyond the appreciation of aesthetic attributes.
These artists believe in something bigger than art for the sake of art. They perceive the artistic activity as a powerful tool of social impact. It’s possible to realize it when we see art’s influence in segments such as religion, politics, tourism, and the economy. For example, did you know that in 2019 the culture economy generated around 30 million jobs and munched $ 4.3 trillion, about 6% of the global economy?
Art also has a strong influence on issues related to environmental preservation. Artworks are essential tools for ecological activism that alert the population to urgent matters, facilitate understanding messages about sustainability, and help mobilize people to fight for this cause.
This combination of art and environmental activism becomes even more impressive when the works, in addition to communicating messages, become part of the solution, and act directly on preserving the environment. That is why we have prepared this exciting content about artworks that have played this role in our search for a more sustainable world.
But before we get there, how much do you know about the environmental issues we have faced over the past few years?
Environmental preservation in society's daily life
Recent reports, such as the (GEO) published in 2019 by the UN, point out that we have not made positive progress concerning global environmental goals. For example, GEO shows that they registered 8 of the 10 warmest years in the last decade since there are records concerning climate change.
Among other factors, the report also revealed alarming data on biodiversity, agriculture, air, and water pollution. About biodiversity, it showed that 42% of terrestrial invertebrates, 34% of fresh water, and 25% of marine species are at risk of extinction. Regarding agriculture, it showed that 29% of the land is degraded and estimated that in 2050, four billion people will live in desertified areas.
The scenario is also severe when it comes to pollution. GEO pointed out the risks that pollution offers to human life and its impact on nature. According to the GEO, 95% of people live in areas with contamination levels higher than recommended, and that diseases associated with water pollution kill 1.4 million people a year. Besides, eight million tons of plastic a year end up in the oceans.
The data make it clear that measures urgently need to be taken to reverse these conditions. While governments are working to maintain global environmental preservation agreements and companies adapt production and raw materials extraction methods, the population must also make sustainability part of their daily habits.
The Netherlands, for example, is a successful case in the use of sustainable urban transport. Research shows that 84% of the Dutch population uses bicycles as their primary form of transport, in addition to 88,000 kilometers of routes adapted for cyclists. Great for people, who spend less time in traffic, and for the environment.
Another case that can inspire the rest of the world is Sweden. Being one of the five most sustainable countries, Sweden has the first shopping mall for recyclable products in the world. The ReTuna Recycling Gallery has 14 stores, an organic restaurant, and spaces for conferences and debates on the environment’s future.
Can you see how even the way we move or consume is related to environmental issues? Each of our choices and attitudes is an essential part of society’s evolution - even the art we produce. Let's think a little more about this relationship between art and society.
Art and society: understand this relationship
The relationship between art and society has changed and intensified over the decades. We can increasingly perceive tart’s influence in all social sectors, such as the economy, politics, health, and culture. Look at these examples.
Have you heard, for example, of cultural tourism? It is all tourism in which the main attraction is an aspect of human culture, such as history and art. According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), cultural tourism represents about 37% of the total global sector. Can you imagine how crucial this can be to a country's economy?
Italy, for example, together with China, is the country with the largest number of places on the World Heritage List protected by UNESCO, with 55 records - 50 of these records are cultural goods. Not coincidentally, Italy is the fifth most visited country globally, having received 62.1 million tourists in 2019.
Another case that reinforces the value of art to society is its impact on health. A famous case of this relationship is the Brazilian psychiatrist Nise da Silveira. In 1944, Silveira pioneered painting and modeling as a therapeutic alternative for the patients’ treatment while working at the Pedro II National Psychiatric Center.
In 1952 she founded the Museum of Images of the Unconscious in Rio de Janeiro, a study and research center designed to preserve the works produced in the modeling and painting studios she created at the institution. These documents opened up new possibilities for a deeper understanding of the schizophrenic's inner universe.
The power of art to transform our society is indisputable. If art can impact the economy and even our health, can you imagine its impact on preserving the environment? Check out these cases!
The impact of works of art on environmental preservation
Artists from around the world have endeavored to use their talents as a contribution to building a more sustainable world. With their abilities, they can spread crucial education messages on sustainability and present practical solutions to preserve the environment.
The combination of art and environmental preservation will undoubtedly result in incredible projects. The following are some of our favorites.
For example, Italian artist Andreco shows us that street art can help improve air quality in cities. He developed the Philosophical Tree project, which consists of graphing 18 meters high trees on the streets of large urban centers to reduce air pollution.
Andreco uses a special paint called photocatalytic. When in contact with solar radiation, it reacts, absorbing nitrogen monoxide from the air - a polluting gas that contributes, among other phenomena, to acid rain.
According to the artist, each square meter of his graffiti has, for nature, the same effect as taking eight cars off the streets.
Another example of a successful project using art to promote environmental preservation is the Kenyan NGO Ocean Sole. The organization found an exciting way to solve a curious problem: the improper disposal of rubber sandals on the country's coast.
Ocean Sole uses these shoes to create animal sculptures, as well as toys and other utensils. The initiative started with biologist Julie Church, who in 1999 observed that children from Kiwayu, an island off the east coast of Kenya, wore old sandals to make toys. Julie then began to encourage the mothers of these children to collect this material that pollutes the ocean.
In 2005, the entrepreneur founded Ocean Sole, which buys the collected shoes and transforms them into beautiful sculptures. The company already recycles more than 500,000 rubber slippers a year, employing around 900 Kenyans throughout its collection and production line.
Aren't these projects incredible? We are sure that there is no longer any doubt about art’s power to preserve the environment. Do you know artists who have developed similar projects in your community? Maybe you can be the next one!
Part of society still neglects the transformative power of art. Therefore, we must continue to educate ourselves on using artistic tools to create social awareness and transform our communities.
Regarding the projects we’ve presented, it is interesting to note how they also impact the communities' reality while preserving the environment. By revitalizing public spaces with urban art or employing community members, art has much to contribute to society's evolution.
Here at Timelinefy you can find many other examples of artists and projects that have transformed society throughout history. What's the next story we're going to explore together?