5 Ways Art is a Vital Tool for Environmental Conservation
Artwork conveys messages too complicated to capture with language alone. Beauty, subjective values, hope, joy, sorrow, and need for action can all be condensed into one image.
Artists have long been advocates for change. Environmental conservation in particular drives the work of many artists. The artist Thomas Moran, for example, contributed to the establishment of Yellowstone as the world’s first National Park by depicting its intact splendor in his paintings. When artists, conservationists, and leaders combine talents, beautiful things happen. Here are just a few ways that art is a vital tool for environmental conservation.
Art begins with the seemingly superficial: aesthetic beauty. Often, we artists are inspired by a beautiful landscape, a breathtaking quality of light, or nature’s vivid color palette. As observers of the world, artists are particularly in tune to everyday moments of beauty. This beauty may be our initial perception of value in nature. Scratching the surface, we consider other benefits nature provides, such as food, clean water, air, all in wonderful balance.
As observers of the world, we artists also notice the ugly. The rivers flowing with plastic waste out to sea, images of trash islands in the middle of the ocean, or barren landscapes devoid of color and life. We share the beauty to speak for the ugly.
Some artists take a different approach altogether and present the ugly in a beautiful way. Either way, art captures public attention to notice these moments. When faced with a beautiful piece, the viewer may feel something, reflect on their own values, be reminded of a personal experience, and maybe even fall in love with the earth a little more.
Could hard data and technical analysis stop a crowd in its tracks as effectively as a beautiful piece of art? Information may not be the most effective in getting their audience emotionally connected to an issue.
For conservation efforts to be successful, it is essential to bridge the gap between art and science in an integrative approach. Art allows us to make an initial emotional connection which leads to our second point - sharing a message.
Art Tells a Story
Art has the power to bring a group together, and facilitate dialogue on the topic at hand. This is the moment to bring an issue to light and share the story behind the artwork.
Conservations try to inform an indifferent public to environmental problems and potential solutions. Art helps these messages reach larger audiences. This has a rippling effect too. Someone may take an art piece home and be constantly reminded of its message. They may share with their social network. People may be inspired to become more invested in the issue. Word spreads.
Art is Accessible
In the pre-digital age, explorers created illustrations of animals, plants, and landscapes of places they visited. They shared these illustrations when they came home, and people who may not have ever had the chance to see such things in person were still able to experience them. In modern times, it’s not just painters and sculptors capturing the essence of inaccessible places. We have photography, film, and publications sharing visuals and information. With the interconnectedness the internet provides, so many people have access to the whole world, and we are constantly discovering new things on the planet. You need to see something to care about it, and art helps foster existential value on things we may not experience but should strive to preserve.
Practicing Art Enhances our Lives
The list of benefits of creative expression is long, but there are a few in particular that stand out when thinking of conservation.
Several recent studies support claims that art study and an integrated approach to education improve our learning and reflection. Getting children involved in arts early will equip the next generations with tools of creative problem solving. There is no right answer in art, so you are able to come up with your own unique solutions, great for the newer generation that will be tasked with fixing our environmentally problematic legacy.
Creating art allows us to look inward and express ourselves. We can develop our own ideas and express ourselves to the world, to speak for what we care about.
Stress relief is another huge benefit. When we practice what makes us happy we connect with and learn from one another, igniting the spark for change.
We all have an innate desire to express ourselves creatively, and it is important to carve out time for creativity from childhood to adulthood.
When you support an artist by purchasing their work, you enable them to continue to be a voice for conservation. In exchange you receive an object that brings joy to your life - the art!
Artists have the unique job of inspiring people to care about an issue. The driving force behind the work runs deep, and many do not stop at just creating art. Artists use their resources to support organizations that are actively working for conservation by volunteering their time or donating a portion of sales. Some create their own organizations for the cause. Others donate art or contribute their talents to fundraisers.
In this day and age cash flow is crucial to accomplishing anything. When a piece of art is purchased, that money circulates to where it is needed.
In my experience as an independent artist, I have had the privilege of supporting conservation efforts with my art many times over the years. I may not be creating the immense change that I want to just yet, but I do the best that I can to share information, inspire love for nature, use environmentally friendly practices in my business and personal life, and share the joys of creative expression. I believe that as individuals we need to fill our lives with positive ideas, images, and activities. When our lives are joyful we have greater compassion for other humans, animals, and our planet. From there we can become more informed and make better choices that will collectively heal the planet. Art certainly plays a part in that.
I would love to hear YOUR thoughts about how art & conservation go together, please leave a comment below!