Just last week an unprecedented event occurred in Greenland. An iceberg twice the size of Manhattan broke off one of the largest and oldest ice sheets in the world in less than twenty-four hours. Scientists are still scratching their heads to figure out why global warming in certain regions is happening faster than predicted.
Despite such facts, much of the public remains clueless. At least half of Americans do not believe climate change is real and are completely inactive when it comes to pushing their elected leaders to do something. There has been a critical failing in communications around climate change and a big part of the problem has been a lack of ‘imagery’ that evokes and symbolizes the global changes that are, as we speak, changing the shape of the planet we live on.
That is why we need artists to tackle the climate problem, and a new online art contest called CoolClimate hopes to engage artists around the world to help create imagery about climate change.
The contest is really innovative in that it "travels" around the web -- starting out on deviantArt, the largest social network for artists and designers. A panel of high profile judges will chose the finalists who then move on to Huffington Post where the public votes. The top 5 get featured the Planet 100 show on Planetgreen.com.
In today’s art markets, art that is ‘about something’—like climate change—tends to be overlooked or undervalued. Furthermore, the efforts of well-funded conservative think-tanks have helped politicize climate conversation. This makes art that is overtly about climate change a rarity. I write a column on SHFT.com where I am constantly looking for real artists that are intelligently responding to climate change. And I will tell you it is difficult. A few come to mind: Adam Wolpert, Jass Kaselaan, Mark Coreth, and Nele Azevedo (above).
But there is hope. Historically, artists have been on the leading edge of social and cultural movements, giving shape to the unspoken desires of a culture on the brink of change. Through time they have given us images that become rallying points for progress.
Never before have we needed those images so urgently. Climate change is vast and complicated, yet it will have impacts in our own backyards. It’s the difficult task of connecting these far-flung dots that the artist lives for.
NOTE: I am helping in the development and promotion of the CoolClimate contest, so to be transparent I may be biased in my hopes that we will see some great climate conversation emerge from the contest!