World Earth Day – What is the role of the Arts?


By Sophie Mayhew, Third Year Liberal Arts

Today, 22 April, is World Earth Day, and we must not forget about the challenges our planet is facing. Arguably, as increasing research has shown, pandemics and climate crisis go hand in hand – yet what can art do for the environment?

As we begin to gradually ‘unlock’ the country, it is clear that we must not neglect all the change and challenge that has presented itself to our world during this strange time. The theme of Earth Day 2021 is ‘Restore Our Earth’ – because, in the not so gentle reminder brandishes across the Earth Day website: whilst ‘the world returns to normal, we can’t go back to business as usual’. It is our role as engaged student citizens of this proud green city of Bristol, to join the conversation in sustainability.

Alina Tuggend, for the New York Times, argues that art and the environment are inextricably linked; and indeed, creating art with environmental messages has risen in the past year as a result of the coronavirus. So-called ‘Ecoart’ has raised awareness of acute dangers, such as this virus, facing the planet; whilst promoting its conservation.

It is our role as engaged student citizens of this proud green city of Bristol, to join the conversation in sustainability.

Selva Ozelli, for example, is an acclaimed academic environmentalist who took to her canvases for the first time over lockdown to present her sentiment via her creation of virtual exhibition: ‘Art in the Time of Corona’. Selva's work is featured on the Earth Day webstie, amongst other environmental artists in the Artist Archive. In her paintings, Ozelli explores themes of climate change, depicting the rise of carbon emissions through clever artistry, arguing that this is the foremost reason for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Corona Corona, 30 x 30 cm, Canvas / Via Selva Ozelli

Whether you are an arts activists or not, if you want to do your bit in becoming more thoughtful global citizens, making conscious efforts to engage and educate yourself on the protection of our planet is important. These are a series of environmental art suggestions, here in Bristol.

1 – Attend an event or exhibition at Create Bristol. Located just behind the harbour, Create is a vibrant environment centre, which hosts a range of events and exhibitions. A regular activity includes ‘FABRICation’ which is a permanent exhibition about textile sustainability. Part of the exhibition includes a practical activity, whereby people are offered domestic items made from fabrics that would otherwise be sent to landfill; to rework into items such as cushions, tea cosies and table mats.

2 – Become a member for self-funded organisation Friends of the Earth Bristol. An active local group of the international organisation Friends of the Earth, they are committed to creating a peaceful and sustainable world, supporting societies to live in harmony with nature. By paying a membership subscription of just £5, you can get involved by having an active say on what they campaign and how they campaign.

3 – Join the Global movement of World Citizen Artists, a global movement of socially engaged artists and creatives, whose aim is to raise awareness through creativity in order to become better global citizens.

4 – Join the Artists for the Earth Event: Print for Our Planet. For all you artists! Join the zoom at 5pm on the 22nd to attend the online workshop run by the Bristol Print Collective, where you will develop drawings, slogans or graphic images into Lino block prints to create messages about the future of our planet. After the workshop post your prints online with the hashtag #Earthday to raise awareness through your finished designs!

Climate Emergency Day of Action at Bristol Uni
Opinion | The Arts are important. Don't let the Tories tell you otherwise

5 – Visit street artist Jody Thomas’s climate change murals located across the city. In 2019, Jody Thomas gained worldwide acclaim following his four-storey high, iconic mural of Greta Thunberg on the side of the Tobacco Factory. Later that year, in collaboration with We The Curious, Thomas painted a new piece entitled ‘Cause’ – which refers to the famously recognisable 90’s Jaws Poster – aiming to highlight the impact of single-use plastics on the Earth’s oceans. We The Curious encourages visitors to pledge their ‘promise to the planet’ in response to their Change Makers programme, joining the pledge for the future in the combatting against climate change.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Matthew Smith

How will you celebrate Earth Day?