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Art as action: Finding the role of creativity in the face of a climate crisis


The climate crisis is pressing and communities are only becoming more impacted as we feel the effects of global warming. Most climate action focuses on emissions reduction through renewable energy and reforestation, which is difficult for many of us to engage with on the every day and leaves the skills and passions of creative people by the wayside in the call for climate action. It also largely ignores how we are to prepare for the extreme natural events to which we’re increasingly exposed.

Art and creativity critiques and envisions, it builds new, re-invents and inspires – all essential components of transitioning to new ways of doing things. Furthermore, storytelling creates connection between people and groups which is core to effective action.

So as creatives, how can we contribute to the transition to the new society and economy we need? And how do we build resilience as we begin to feel the impacts of a heating planet?
We brought together three creatives who shared the common threads of food and shelter to explore how art and design can respond to what feels like an insurmountable task. 
Art As Action panel

Artist Keg de Souza illustrated how her temporary spaces (like the School of Displacement made from used tents) create a platform for otherwise marginalised voices and knowledge sharing for resilience with programmed events such as In a strange land: How does culture survive when you can’t go home and Indigenous survival techniques for the apocalypse. Jen Kulas – trained in architecture and business lead at Nightingale Housing – discussed how reductionist design (like sharing ammenities like gardens and laundries) creates low-impact living that brings people closer together. Innovator of Lettuce Eat plates, Maddison Ryder, showed how aesthetics, or making something beautiful, can change behaviour. 

Live-scribe Devon Bunce captured key themes in her incredible visual map of the conversation. 

Art As Action scribe

To continue the conversation about creativity and the climate, check out these great initiatives:

  • ClimARTe: An arts event in Melbourne which artists bring meaning to, raise awareness of and express grief about the climate crisis 
  • ArtsHouse Refuge: A collaborative, workshops-based event in Melbourne with the intention to build skills for resilience 
  • U.S. Department of Arts and Culture: A tongue-in-cheek grassroots movement in the United States connecting artists acting on climate change
Both locally and around the world the same questions are being asked about how artists and creatives can contribute to the climate crisis. It seems as though the resounding answer is there are so many ways – plus a growing community of creative climate activists!