These days, environmental concerns are often translated into artistic themes and media, from photography that records signs of global warming to sculpture that incorporates trash. But at the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, Matthias Merkel Hess has a different concern: Art driving.

This past Saturday, I was confronted with a relatively typical Saturday night—driving all over the Southland for gallery openings…. According to google maps, round trip would be just over 50 miles.
So much eco-art, so little time — and concern for CO2 emissions! Unsurprisingly, Matthias lives in Los Angeles, a big, sprawling city notorious for its less-than-convenient nighttime public transportation. Matthias ended up just picking one gallery opening, but he does have a suggestion for L.A.-area galleries: Coordinate openings to minimize driving!

Such eco-friendly collaboration would benefit the art scene as well as the environment, Matthias points out. Planning all the openings on a given night within a single, walkable neighborhood “could result in larger turnouts for the galleries and support for their artists. Most of us do not buy anything, but we sure are talking about it, critiquing it, and of course, blogging. In that sense, it’s important to get a crowd.”

What Matthias is suggesting isn’t a new idea, exactly. L.A., for its part, has the Downtown Art Walk, a monthly event that encourages people to visit area museums and galleries free, either on foot or by taking a free shuttle. Similar recurring events like Artwalk Tacoma and Downtown Charleston ArtWalk happen around the country. Other cities have annual events: Chicago has ArtWalk Ravenswood; Birmingham and Salida, Colo. also organize an annual walk.

Of course, Matthias wants every night — or at least every Saturday night — to be an Artwalk type night, since L.A.’s so spread out it has a bunch of different areas where small galleries collect. Perhaps this driving problem’s one that’s more unique to L.A. than other areas. Still, his quandary’s a reminder not to forget to include transit concerns when coordinating or calculating the carbon footprint of an event. Support your local eco-minded artists — as well as local art-related programs that encourage people to get out of their cars and walk around the neighborhood.

Photo: Siel

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