Throughout history, art has served as a creative means of advocating for and communicating about social change. Back in the 1840s, the Hutchinson Family Singers, a popular group from New Hampshire, used music to promote the antislavery movement. During the Great Depression, Dorothea Lange’s photography drew attention to the plight of the poor in rural America. In the 1980s, Keith Haring’s art explored social and political themes including AIDS awareness. And Misty Copeland, the first black woman to be named a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre, advocates for the beauty and belonging of all races through dance. These are just a few examples of how art can be a compelling tool for advocacy.
“Throughout our history, we have seen artists and activists work hand in hand. We have seen art inspire and elevate whole movements for change.”– Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation
The environmental movement — which is inherently intertwined with and a part of broader social change efforts — is no different in its employment of art as inspiration and motivation. Conservation in the United States was, in part, inspired by the writings of Henry David Thoreau and John Muir and furthered by the photography of Ansel Adams. The National Parks Service still hosts an Artist in Residence program acknowledging the role of art in conservation. You can also find connections between art and environment here on our U-M campus. The Dana Building, home to the School of Environment and Sustainability features the Art and Environment Gallery. This space showcases works of art about our interactions with the natural environment. The Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum provide space for art in the form of sculptures, mosaics, and even performances.
In light of this history surrounding the power of art, the Planet Blue Ambassador program is launching a project we’re calling Climate Crochet. Through this effort, Ambassadors will have the opportunity to create their own visual displays of climate change data in the form of colorful, handmade scarves.
There are several goals we are aiming to accomplish through this project:
- In order to support safety and inclusion during COVID-19, all components of the project will be conducted virtually.
- Since we aim to increase the capacity within our Ambassador community for creating art, no experience with knitting or crochet is necessary. We will work together to ensure everyone learns the basics. In addition, if you need assistance in acquiring the necessary tools for this project, such as crochet hooks or knitting needles, we will provide them.
- Because we would like to provide a fun opportunity for community building among Ambassadors, we will host occasional Zoom meet-ups while participants are creating their scarves.
- To conclude the project, Ambassadors will be encouraged to share about their finished scarves with others and report back on how these scarves serve as conversation starters over the winter.
If you are interested in participating in the Climate Crochet project, please fill out this interest survey before the end of the day on Sunday July 26th, 2020. We plan for this to be a fun, low-commitment activity that any Ambassador can be involved in. Students, staff, faculty, and alumni are all welcome to participate and enjoy creating a new scarf, learning a new skill, and making some new connections.