Sometimes it feels like I lead a double life. Okay, pretty much every day.
Persona A: I’ve been a performing musician for most of my life; I have degrees in music and arts management; I devote what other people call “free time” to EAL/LA and Inner-City Arts, and; most of my social outings at arts events.
Persona B: I grew up in rural Missouri, where my grandpa was a farmer; I’m really concerned about the purity of our food supply; I try to buy clothes only made from natural fibers, and; my full-time job is with the Urban Sustainability program at Antioch University Los Angeles.
Deeply and intuitively, I know these two personas are not dissonant and they must have developed from the same place within me.
I have yet to eloquently describe how and why, but being around sustainability folks has given me some big clues. (Guess what? They’re mostly into the arts, too.)
She says about the intersection of arts and sustainability:
“While the sustainable cities of our dreams will clearly require the expertise of engineers, planners, policy experts, and every kind of scientist, they will also require a massive reimagining of how we live in nature—of our everyday environmental relationships. And that’s a job for the arts.
Art is especially good at upending assumptions, and at looking anew at the things we take for granted. At making the invisible forces that shape our cities visible. At reaching large audiences—which, frankly, most engineers don’t. At being at least somewhat open-ended and subject to interpretation, which asks people to think and creates conversation. And, above all, at telling stories—about our relationships with nature and each other—which is fundamentally how people understand the world around them.”
Jenny’s quote touches on the mysterious dissonance that seems to resonate when art and science intersect.
This is particularly problematic when the arts enter the sustainability realm because many people assume that sustainability is about solar panels, hybrid cars, and LEED certification—science stuff.
Then why is it that the arts do, invariably, come up in sustainability conversations?
Sustainability encompasses everything: food, water, transportation, social justice. In order to improve these massive systems, sustainability folks need to get people’s attention and communicate information about change. This is what the arts do best.
Here are some great examples of local organizations working toward systematic change, through art:
Green Public Art: “Exploring how art can incorporate sustainable strategies, demonstrate green processes and utilize green design, materials, theories and techniques.” This rapidly growing startup thrives at the intersection of art, urban planning, and green standards.
FMLY: On the surface, FMLY may seem like it’s about bikes and music. Fundamentally, it seems to exemplify the collaborative and systems-focused perspectives that tie arts and sustainability. From the FMLY website: “we can no longer live in the mentality of a ‘me’ generation and must therefor unite for greater social causes such as understanding relationships within communities, systems, and spaces, as well as nurturing discussion on the politics of play, art, environment and life itself.”
Stay tuned to ARTSblog for Arts + Education next…