Art as a Catalyst for Change

The Power of Creativity

One of the most surprising things in modern society is the lack of activism, and creative activism, around environmental issues, pointing perhaps to a lack of emotional connectedness to nature We feel an instant reaction if something we like, or someone we love is threatened or abused, why not so the Earth which is polluted, extracted, deforested, depleted and destroyed daily and so casually? Our emotional connection to nature is broken by bad buildings, poor design and corporate marketing putting a barrier between us and reality. We struggle to define and comfort ourselves through brands and things, we think we are richer but we lose what is important and that which sustains us. We are confused, wilfully ignorant of the harm we do, and it is a road to self-destruction.

Art is widely accepted as a key catalyst to emotionally connect us Key to SiAG’s work is how we design buildings, make and communicate through art, how we influence tomorrow’s leaders and practitioners, linking to how we create enterprise and better careers for our students at the GSA. Art can be stories, research, contemporary and prophetic, connecting us through emotion and experience to a subject matter, reconnecting to each other, our values and our living planet. It can help us make sense of the madness of consumption, and the rapid change we see around us. Art can make us activists.

Art can help us make sense of the complex, reconnect us to both the issues and our communities, help us question and challenge others’ actions, create empathy, develop our values and cause us to take action. We can provide room for people to rethink the future and express these ideas through our practice. We can encourage personal action to awaken values and to frame values in such ways that encourage us to work as a community towards shared goals. Good design can innovate ways to help people relate to complex messages such as embedded energy in materials.

Sustainability reconnects art practices that have separated into disciples: sculpture, design, architecture, fine art. Once often practiced together, our work helps bring different disciplines together. Similarly, science and art have moved away from each other, and we aim to help bring together all practitioners to better interpret, build a consensus and affect action around climate disruption.

Reconnected like this, as creative people we become activists for change, making contributions in whatever personal or professional field we can. As an institution, the Glasgow School of Art can offer a lead, be at the forefront of experimentation and discovery, led by its students and staff.

A key action based on values at the GSA was the “Artists using Resources in the Community” project (Jan 2014 – June 2015) It has overseen a major jump in awareness and action at the GSA. ARC has now reported on 15 months of thinking, planning, interactions, & monitoring. ARC represents one of the major steps we have taken in implanting sustainability into the GSA: the creation of SiAG and the all-staff meetings in 2009; the decision to invest in a permanent Sustainability Coordinator post in 2013; the ARC project; and from 1 July 2015 Radial

Next: Challenges and Connections

Photo credit: David Buckland