BEYOND GREEN – THE ARTS AS A CATALYST FOR SUSTAINABILITY

"How can the arts be a ‘particle accelerator’ to speed progress toward a more just and sustainable world?" - Susanna Seidl-Fox

INTRODUCTION

In February 2016, the Salzburg Global Seminar brought together sixty leading practitioners from 27 countries and across a variety of disciplines and fields in both arts and sustainability sectors. Beyond Green: The Arts as a Catalyst for Sustainability sought to explore the question of whether the arts and creative practice can become a particle accelerator  for sustainability— to shift mindsets, embrace new ways of sharing space and resources, and catalyze more creative leadership in the public and private spheres.

The session’s goals were to build on path-breaking initiatives that are advancing cross-sectoral links between arts and sustainability around the world, encourage bolder efforts, and recommend strategic approaches for taking innovative grassroots initiatives to scale for greater, longer-term impact.

Images courtesy of Salzburg Global Seminar.

In February 2016, the Salzburg Global Seminar brought together sixty leading practitioners from 27 countries and across a variety of disciplines and fields in both arts and sustainability sectors. Beyond Green: The Arts as a Catalyst for Sustainability sought to explore the question of whether the arts and creative practice can become a particle accelerator  for sustainability— to shift mindsets, embrace new ways of sharing space and resources, and catalyze more creative leadership in the public and private spheres.

The session’s goals were to build on path-breaking initiatives that are advancing cross-sectoral links between arts and sustainability around the world, encourage bolder efforts, and recommend strategic approaches for taking innovative grassroots initiatives to scale for greater, longer-term impact.

Images courtesy of Salzburg Global Seminar.

  • Clients

  • PROJECT

  • WHAT WE DID

The Work

What kinds of arts-based sustainability projects break through social norms and cultural narratives to inspire lasting behavior change by the public and policy makers? How can we build more effective strategies and approaches to raising awareness and catalyzing public engagement by focusing on the power of imagery and storytelling?

How can cutting-edge sustainable architecture and design become more accessible, affordable, and widely produced? How are architects intervening in urban planning to change how we occupy and use space? How are designers re-purposing industrial waste for high fashion, furniture and other consumer products?

Can the arts’ ability to illuminate complexity and viscerally communicate the deep importance of natural systems promote climate awareness and sustainable values? How can art help overcome people’s numbness and disconnection from each other and the natural world, shift perspectives, make the invisible visible, and help us imagine alternative futures? How can artists help us deal with complexity, observe and disrupt patterns, surprise us into new ways of thinking, and stimulate people’s innate creativity?

How can creative industries influence consumer attitudes and behaviors, accelerate equitable labor practices, and promote sourcing methods that build responsible global citizenship? How can we change mindsets and shift behaviors around what and how we consume?

How can more cities embrace artists and the creative sector as essential allies in building sustainable communities? How can the city be the driver of creative change and sustainable progress? How can encourage bolder policy making?

 

 

What incentives can propel the cultural sector to embed sustainability into its policies, practices, and investments, in order to reduce carbon usage and exert moral leadership? What can we learn from existing efforts to help cultural organizations and industries become more sustainable?

What kinds of arts-based sustainability projects break through social norms and cultural narratives to inspire lasting behavior change by the public and policy makers? How can we build more effective strategies and approaches to raising awareness and catalyzing public engagement by focusing on the power of imagery and storytelling?

How can cutting-edge sustainable architecture and design become more accessible, affordable, and widely produced? How are architects intervening in urban planning to change how we occupy and use space? How are designers re-purposing industrial waste for high fashion, furniture and other consumer products?

Can the arts’ ability to illuminate complexity and viscerally communicate the deep importance of natural systems promote climate awareness and sustainable values? How can art help overcome people’s numbness and disconnection from each other and the natural world, shift perspectives, make the invisible visible, and help us imagine alternative futures? How can artists help us deal with complexity, observe and disrupt patterns, surprise us into new ways of thinking, and stimulate people’s innate creativity?

How can creative industries influence consumer attitudes and behaviors, accelerate equitable labor practices, and promote sourcing methods that build responsible global citizenship? How can we change mindsets and shift behaviors around what and how we consume?

How can more cities embrace artists and the creative sector as essential allies in building sustainable communities? How can the city be the driver of creative change and sustainable progress? How can encourage bolder policy making?

 

 

What incentives can propel the cultural sector to embed sustainability into its policies, practices, and investments, in order to reduce carbon usage and exert moral leadership? What can we learn from existing efforts to help cultural organizations and industries become more sustainable?

Conclusion

The report summarizes the various discussions of the group and suggests potential arenas for strategic action.

• The need to clearly articulate theories of change —  “why” and “how” arts and culture can advance sustainability goals;

• The need to shift from an economic system based on extractive logic to one that values stewardship and regeneration;

• The importance of intermediaries who can communicate and build connections across different disciplines, worldviews, cultures, and geographies;

• The need to pursue immediate, if imperfect, action to make improvements in our current unsustainable systems while we also do the slower strategic work needed for long-term system-wide change;

• The need for more “human” definitions of what “development” means and more nuanced metrics of wellbeing that are not based on economic growth;

• The need to acknowledge and work through the existential and emotional dimensions of this crisis in addition to the political and technological ones; and

• The need for an ongoing, multi-sector dialogue about sustainable transitions that can produce new language as well as more impactful policies and practices.

 

The session broadened the collective understanding of the group of the multiple ways that arts and culture can be catalysts for sustainability. The session connected participants to a global community of imaginative leaders dedicated to change, and helped them see their work in a larger context. The gathering suggested that the path forward is less about achieving lock- step alignment of approaches and perspectives and more about creating a conceptual framework that allows us to see, and value, how each approach contributes to our shared ultimate goal—a more sustainable way of being 
in the world.