Art as Climate Change Activism

By conference convener, Stephanie Mines.

“The future of mankind will, I am perfectly certain, include a return to simplicity. Art will not merely join the trend: It will actively help in bringing it about.” Swami Kriyananda, Art as a Hidden Message: A Guide to Self-Realization

What is the relationship between art and consciousness and, to posit an even more compelling question, what is the relationship between art and climate change activism? One person who has been living and breathing these questions is Dana Lynne Andersen. She is founder and CEO of the Awakening Arts Academy (awakeningartsacademy.com/), an organization partnering with CCC19. Dana is organizing a global ‘call to artists’ as part of the CCC19 event.


Dana Lynne Andersen and two of her paintings: Gaia and Emissary

Dana founded Awakening Arts in 2002 after decades of building networks and educating for whole-of-brain connection through the arts. She now has centers in Assisi, Italy and Portland, Oregon in the USA. I was drawn to collaborate with Dana because, as a neuroscientist and trauma specialist, I have experienced the arts as one of the vehicles expansive enough to carry the neurological and nervous system responses to overwhelming experience. Climate change undoubtedly fits the category of ‘overwhelming experience.’  I see the arts as medicinal, part of a paradigm of sustainable healthcare for a climate changing world. Dana agrees.”

Atomic Frequency and Crest of a Wave

From Dana’s perspective and mine, art is a state of being rather than the outcome of specific training. This is why her ‘call to artists’ for a CCC19 global art event goes beyond the typical curating of an exhibition. If you link art with consciousness and climate change activism, the notions of art and artist morph unpredictably. Creative individuals express themselves quixotically using the mediums at hand.

Dana knows this deeply, through her desire to become an artist in the first place. When asked how she chose her career and lifestyle, Dana responded with the story of the Andersen family ‘Depression.’ It began before her birth when her father lost his source of income, and it extended into her formative years. Dana spent her childhood fabricating toys out of found objects, all of which were converted into art materials. She made creative use of whatever was discarded or neglected.

I found this story redolent. It evoked threads of an intercultural, intergenerational narrative of art arising out of humanity’s core impulse to transmute hardship into beauty. This is what climate change is eliciting right now. We are in the midst of a revolution in consciousness, resilience and creativity that is rooted in the primitive urge to bounce back from whatever threatens stability. We have an undeniable will to thrive, to communicate with each other and to join together with our diverse skills for the future of the world, especially when that very future is so threatened. This is what Dana’s ‘call to artists’ reflects. And it is a core impulse of CCC19.

When I was a young girl I lived with my Eastern European immigrant grandparents in New York’s Orthodox Jewish ghetto. I regularly accompanied my grandfather on walks through the neighborhood. He always dressed in a clean, pressed suit and wore a broad brimmed hat for these outings. Wherever we went he kept his eye out for discarded objects that might be useful. He often made these into toys for his grandchildren or decorations for our humble apartment. He would pocket paper clips, rubber bands, bits and pieces of broken objects, shiny pieces of paper and just about anything that still had some use. He maintained his dignity despite the scavenging. I was always proud to be by his side. The foraging instinct that transforms refuse and carelessness into joy and possibility for others is boundless. In whatever way we do this, there is hope, consciousness and artistry.

The nourishment derived from resourceful creativity can feed generations to come; it is a timeless legacy. The young Hans Christian Andersen, to whom Dana may be related, began his storytelling career when, as an impoverished child, he gathered scraps of fabric from his grandmother’s mending and crafted costumes for characters he was creating from of bits of wood he found in the streets. Countless children around the world and across time have been fed by the fruits of Andersen’s imagination and creativity. As a lifelong fan of his fables and one of his many biographers (see my book, New Frontiers in Sensory Integration), I can say that these enduring jewels defy the vulnerability of their originating circumstances. Perhaps this is one definition of art: that it communicates interconnectedness and possibility using what would otherwise be ignored.

This past September, late in the afternoon, I was strolling with friend, Karen Luedtke, in the grounds surrounding the Findhorn Foundation’s Cluny College. We came upon stained-glass artist Pupak Haghighi and friends who were at work reconfiguring the exterior walls of an old shed with shards of glass, pieces of broken jewelry and beads. Everyone was huddled against the threatening cold but nevertheless, on fire with collective creativity as they alchemized what was crumbling and abandoned into something so stunning it stopped us in our tracks. When Karen introduced me and told everyone about CCC19 each one wanted to be part of it. Art, spirituality, consciousness and climate change activism were fused into that moment.

Pupak and the transformed shed (See more images here.)

Like this group that I met at Cluny and Pupak herself, Dana Lynne Andersen embodies exuberant resourcefulness. The words she uses over and over to describe her vision of a global art event, on the ground and live-streamed throughout the world, are “synergy,” “nexus,” and “pulse.” Her ‘call to artists’ reflects her deep knowing that to solve daunting problems of climate change we need to hear the creative, co-intelligent voices of humanity as a siren song of hope.  Dana’s capacity to sense into a vibrant, pulsing matrix of creativity that defies borders makes her the perfect spearhead for this multifaceted event.

For many, the data of climate change science is daunting and overwhelming. Some have a haunting somatic experience of what such data means and are driven to express it. Their voices can take form in film, performance, song, dance, visual art, sculpture, ceramics, theater or poetry. With her spirit of inclusivity and diversity, Dana is drafting a ‘call to artists’ who yearn to link and communicate with others; whose conscious evolution and sensitivity to climate change shapes their creative expression. To learn more about or be involved in Dana’s ‘call,’ please contact her directly at dana@awakeningarts.com. She is actively seeking collaborators and sponsors for this event.

* Dana Lynne Andersen and Stephanie Mines are collaborating on a week-long pre-CCC19 event, Sustainable Healthcare for a Climate Changing World, which incorporates art as medicine. It will be held at the Ananda Laurelwood Center in Gaston, Oregon, June 11-16, 2018. If you would like further information about this program, please contact Stephanie Mines at tara-approach@prodigy.net.

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