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Art for Change

 Let me take you through a mix of positive power stories from artists and creative influencers to some tips of tried and true ways to put your creativity to power and make art for change.

So unless you have had a trip to Mars recently or live technology free you will be have experienced the heartbreak of watching the Australian fire crisis unfold over the last few months. Perhaps you experienced it or had family experience it directly. If you did, then my heart goes out to you. The horror must have been unimaginable.  The amount of loss and devastation tally’s high. From 24 deaths, to estimate thousands of dwellings burnt. And the affected animals falls into the 100’s of millions as declared by Sydney University. Amongst that boggling mix has been disenchanting behaviour by Australian politicians, toxic smoke haze issues, river and sediment imbalances and the list goes on. ABC recently reported on widespread misinformation and “bots” spreading arsonist claims that aren’t true. The fact that climate change discussions, in a country dedicated to coal got ah, heated, is hardly surprising. But it’s enough to increase the agitation and despair we all feel. Australia ended and started the decade with a physical and emotional enormity that no-one anticipated. I think feeling all the feelings is so important; sadness, despair, fear, uncertainty, agitation and contempt all help to mobilise action.

Action is the reason I am writing this blog post. Because alongside the terror and the pain there has been incredible amounts of action and as time continues i hope that much action will continue. This beautiful country we live in requires better care urgently.

Some of the forms of action over the last month have included people opening their homes to strangers, food-banks being flooded with donations and millions and millions of dollars being raised locally and internationally to support charities such as the Red-cross, salvo’s, Wires and Port Macquarie koala hospital, local fire services and so many more. I wanted to take the time to focus on the role of creativity in creating change, namely art for change. Many of you reading will be creative, or have children who are creative and it can be heartening to know that creativity has power in so many different ways during crisis and beyond.

So let me take you through a mix of positive power stories from artists and creative influencers to some tips of tried and true ways to put your creativity to power and make art for change.

  1. Art for Auction

If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen that I silently auctioned a small painting and donated the funds to WIRES animal charity. It may have been a modest amount but it all adds up. I also get so much enjoyment out of my artwork finding a new home. Turns out, I am not the only one auctioning off artwork to bolster charity funds.

Emma Carey (@em_carey) an Instagram writer, influencer and artist raised over $10,000 dollars in less than an hour by selling her Australia print. Yes you read that right, ten thousand dollars in an hour from selling her prints for $50 each. She’s now raised over $60,000 dollars. Go EM and her 161k followers.

Australian photographer Jarrad Seng pulled together some of Australia’s best young photographers to create @artforbushfirerelief. Prints from the likes of Melissa Findlay, Charly Savely and Emilie Ristevski are for sale. Their efforts have raised $40,000 for the Red Cross, WIRES and Wildlife VIC. Printing, paper and operation costs were donated by Perth Pro Lab and Ilfod Imaging which is also supper awesome.

em carey’s art for change as pictured on instagram
  1. Sewing up supplies

Mittens, pouch bags and blankets were on high demand during the fire crisis in Australia. The images of burnt koala’s sent shockwaves through our hearts but crafters around Australia got busy sewing mittens, pouches and more to support the wildlife care and recovery. ABC has a more lengthy article about sewing efforts and their art for change here and if you want to get involved yourself read the Wires pouch guidelines here and IFAW mitten pattern here. It is recommended that you contact the wildlife centre you will donate your sewn goods first to ensure they are needed.

art for change sewn joey pouch
rescue joey in a hand sewn pouch

3: Protest banners

One of my favourite uses of art for change are protest banners. There has been some clever, sassy and creative banners at the various protests and marches around the world both in 2019 and 2020. Click here to see  a gallery put together by the Guardian. With the School Strike for Climate and Extinction Rebellion organising many events and marches there is much opportunity to join others in declaring concern and demanding action from those who have potent power like government and large companies. When it comes to banner or placard making, the sky is the limit, some large plain cardboard like a packing box and some existing paint, crayons or markers you have at home will do you just fine.

art for change climate strike banner
school climate strike placard

There are plenty of other creative things you can do to feel like you are making positive change. The important thing when it comes to any change is to mix up small and big actions when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Sign that petition or march in your city but also change the paper you print on at the office and buy second hand jeans. The little things matter, if everyone does them. Looking after yourself is also so important and will give you the energy to continue to help. To finish this blog post here are 7 small art for change actions.

  • Journal about your feelings can be a great way to get though the emotional turbulence of disaster or eco-anxiety. Find poems, songs and quotes that help you feel understood or inspire you, collage soulful pictures, write, draw, rant and scribble.
  • Reuse and buy ethical supplies. I found the easiest way to swing my consumerist habits to ethical choices was to focus on one item at a time. Start with the easiest thing or what needs replacing first. For art materials, check out my blog post here for some brands, tips and tricks.
  • Target a local issue (school, community or workplace) it may be an obvious need or require a little scratching at the surface. In your workplace changes could include recycled paper supply, recycling initiatives (batteries, printer cartridges, lunch takeaway containers etc), lunch room composting, electricity saving, ethical toilet paper suppliers and much more. To add a creative element see the point below.
  • Make a poster (ah a favourite of mine). A workplace poster might make you feel vulnerable but it will also make people smile and could be just the educational point your colleagues need. This action speaks loudly to children so if you have children get them involved. Hand drawn is best and the topic can be anything from  recycling encouragement to environmental happy news, to animal and habitat education.
  • Write to someone in need like a fire fighter or a politician! The list of recipients is endless, but the general gist is to whip out a pen and some writing paper and pen some words of encouragement to someone working on the frontier of environmental change or some words of request to somebody who could do a little more, like your local politician. For some extra affect add some hand-drawings and colour
  • We protect what we love so getting out in nature is the best way to revitalise an understanding of the despair we have and the need for action. Nature is healing, so some time spent on a bushwalk or at the coast will likely soothe you. To be creative and unwind a little further collect some fallen leaves, sticks and nuts to form a mandala.
  • Go on a regional artisan tour. Most country towns have local artisans and some even have art galleries. To support the rebuild of fire-stricken communities, plan a holiday and get your creative fix at the same for change koala drawing