Street art as a messenger for climate change action

The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create. That is the source of power in this century.

– Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

We’re all in the awesome position to be a part of the climate solution, and young people understand this more than the rest. They’re the ones who will inherit our planet after us, and this inarguable generational link is increasingly being valued. That’s why it is essential for everyone — especially the youth — to be inspired, welcomed, and equipped to be part of the discussions: on how the Earth’s resources are used and conserved, how its climate is maintained, how its people are respected, and how its animals are treated, among many other critical issues.

Heavy topics

How do we make these topics interesting, desirable, and relatable, to all demographics? This is the challenge we take on at Greenpoint Innovations.

One way we do this is by collaborating with world-renowned street artists to produce universally appealing public art, integrated with sustainability messages. The aim is for the art to first engage people with beautiful aesthetics so that we can draw in a large and engaged audience to discuss the “purpose behind the paint”.

PAINTING “THE POINT NYC”, a Climate Week NYC 2018 affiliate [arts & sustainability integration] project

THE POINT NYC

During the 10th annual Climate Week (2018), THE POINT NYC was the only sustainability event focused on uniting artists, producers, educators, intergovernmental agencies, local companies, and environmentalists. This was a three-week long series of world-class artistic and cleantech activations to engage, inform, and inspire youth.

A part of this was a new theatrical adaptation of Tre, Sathviga ‘Sona’ Sridhar’s climate change comic book about a pollution-fighting superhero (and winner of UNICEF’s first Uniting Nations Climate Comic Contest), was staged for young audiences at venues all around the city.

Inspired by Tre, we teamed up with internationally-acclaimed street artists — South Africa-based SONNY and Brooklyn-based artist duo ASVP — and the NYC Department of Education to produce two sustainability-themed murals on opposite walls of Intermediate School 318, a Title 1 public school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NYC.

THE POINT NYC directly reached hundreds of young people, Brooklyn communities and the city government, more importantly people who typically don’t attend Climate Week events.

It is our shared ambition that a project like ‘THE POINT NYC’ leverage the arts and sustainability to raise awareness, inform, and inspire youth and the broader public. Both SONNY and ASVP have, through their contrasting creative expression, connected non-NYC native animals and people to the murals’ starkly different urban surroundings.

A hand painted mural on a large wall depicting a child's face blended with that of a tiger.
© SONNY/2018Mural developed by Sonny, a street artist from South Africa using art to raise awareness on environmental issues.

SONNY

‘KIN’, SONNY’s striking mural is a hybrid-portrait of a girl from the Yawanawa — an indigenous tribe of Acre, Brazil — and a jaguar, native to their forests.

The eyes, according to SONNY, allow the Yawanawa and jaguar to appear to be physically present, by reflecting the Lorimer Avenue street-view in front of them.

As SONNY explains, “Painted in my abstract style, the mural has a fantasy feel, with the various elements appearing or fading away, signifying the cliff’s edge of the choice that we as a human race are facing. In other words, if we decide not to take the immediate, strong, and critical actions to address climate change, indigenous people’s rights, and endangered animals, will our futures fade away?”

Aerial view of the corner of a building that features a large hand-painted mural across a section of the wall.
© ASVPGreenpoint Innovations/2018Mural created by Brooklyn based street artists ASVP, as part of The Point.

ASVP

ASVP’s enormous 55 by 25 feet mural shows how nature — represented by endangered or threatened animals, including an elephant, polar bear, tiger, monkey, and bald eagle — actually supports humans. If nature and this support system were to crumble, humanity would lose its footing. By using a black and white color scheme, ASVP’s mural highlights how animals and humanity are deeply connected.

“The basic idea is that we’re all part of the ecosystem called Earth, where all of us rely on each other in the end. If these animals were to go extinct, we’re to come tumbling down,” ASVP said. “We’re all part of a delicate balance.”

These murals, aimed at building bridges between local communities and high-level global discussions related to climate change, tropical deforestation, indigenous people, and endangered animals, will be long-lasting on the walls of this NYC public school.

While one wouldn’t necessarily assume that the underlying messages are about climate sustainability, forests, and people, the exciting part, and perhaps the most important, is that the exterior of this public NYC junior high school will go on to annually serve as a launchpad of learning for the thousands of future delegates that walk through its doors.

 

Greenpoint Innovations would like to warmly recognize the many organizations and individuals who joined forces to support this project: UNICEF, NYC Department of Education, Intermediate School 318, Assemblyman Joe Lentol, Councilman Stephen Levin, Town Square BK, Forest Trends, and the NYC Mayor’s Office.

Stephen Donofrio is a forests sustainability expert and Founder of Greenpoint Innovations located in Brooklyn, New York. Co-authored by Benjamin Samuel.

 

 

 

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with “required.”