Name a local artist whose work is on the cutting edge of environmentalism and social change. Do you have one? You might. How about one from over 150 years ago?
You might think that using art to affect social change—especially when it comes to the environment and sustainability—is new. The truth is that nature and sustainability as subjects of art probably date back to the earliest cave paintings, and one of the most famous environmental artists was nineteenth-century Concord transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau.
We need the tonic of wildness—to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)
Perhaps Thoreau knew that art transcends aesthetics (or art for art’s sake) and can inspire people to listen, learn, and take action related to complex issues such as social justice or environmentalism.
This month, our posts will explore Arts and the Environment—how arts can integrate with their environment, affect their environment, or draw attention to environmental issues such as climate change, conservation, or pollution. We’ll meet artists and arts organizations at the forefront of this work, through their art installations, performances, community engagement, or collaboration with scientists and environmental advocates.
Join us as we continue to explore and celebrate all that art can do!