Sustainable Living

Why Art Has The Power To Change The World

Credit: Shutterstock

Climate change conversations, environmental enterprises and sustainable ways of living have been reverberant throughout 2019. Protests for change have been riotous across newsfeeds, the streets and Instagram handles. 

At the end of June, upon Glastonbury grasslands, deep in the heart of Somerset, crowds roared. Over a sizzling weekend, with festival fever in full swing, Extinction Rebellion was a headline act bringing the heat. Here, campaigners formed the world’s human hourglass, making the case for urgency regarding the time pressing nature of climate change. 

Extinction Rebellion: just in its infancy and in its first year since inauguration, is a socio-political movement that took to the UK capital in April to give the earth a voice. ‘Save our mother’, ‘make the earth great again’ and ‘there is no plan b’ emblazoned placards, forming a sea of protestors hoping to inspire waves of ecological change across London. 

Two months on, finding a stage at Glastonbury, confirms why the arts remain to be a powerful tool for political protest and promote social change. Yet, the discussion does not rest there. The case for change has been audible within our architecture and our art galleries. 

Sustainability has set the agenda for one of the rooms for the Royal Academy of Arts 251st Summer Exhibition. Opening mid June, the exhibition is set to run until the end of August. Whilst the exhibit is made up of several rooms, guests can head to the Large Weston Room to explore environmentally driven work curated by Architect Spencer de Grey RA.  Illustrating how nature impacts and enriches our immediate environment, trees are placed at the heart of the room, actively absorbing carbon-dioxide emissions. Artwork, architectural plans and sculptures for eco-friendly buildings and cities adorn the room, illustrating new ways of living. 

The strong sustainability agenda explored within Royal Academy of Arts summer exhibit was supported by a thought-provoking lecture by architect Julia Barfield; co-founder of Marks Barfield Architects in conversion with the award-winning environmental journalist, Fiona Harvey. Together, they invited guests to contemplate exactly what exactly is sustainable architecture, and how can we work towards a greener future? 

As we arrived at the end of June, and Glastonbury closed its doors, our minds were opened. We are left with questions. How can we live better, design better and buy better? What Glastonbury and the Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition have in common is that they are rooted in the realm of art. Whether it is poetry, literature, paintings, design or a song, the arts invite us to think, not what to think. It inspires us to question, challenge convention and take a walk in the imagination to conjure new ways of being. 

Art acts as a platform for social change. It exposes us to global issues that face our communities. It is a cultural tool that humanises emotions. Art has the power to both shocks us and inspires us. Fundamentally, the arts allow us to connect with global causes and solve problems. As climate change concerns grow increasingly more pressing, and we continue to contemplate ways to build for a future that protects, nurtures and enriches our environment, we must look to the arts to guide us there.