Artists of all kinds have the exceptional ability to make people think. They put you in their own shoes—whether it’s only for a brief moment observing a mural, or an entire hour watching a documentary. With art, it’s possible to captivate the masses through clothing lines, unique graffiti, architecture—the list goes on and on. However, what happens when art has a message? Let’s say 20 ft. “nature buildings” were created by famous artists using natural bio-materials, and then placed around the globe inside 5 major parks. After viewing an installation like this, do you think your perspective would change a little?
This is the idea behind “sustainable art.” Any art form that includes principles of ecology, environmentalism, social equality, green economy, or pretty much anything that takes on the message “let’s not mess things up for the future,” could be considered sustainable art.
An example of this much-needed form of artistic expression can be found in Eve Mosher’s work. In her 2011 project titled “Seeding the City,” 4ft-by-4ft trays containing native plants were placed on 1,000 buildings throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. A flag was placed on the roof and at street level of each building so they could be identified. Obviously, plants as small as these could not do much to improve the air quality of NYC. But, the message behind it is sound: the participation of building owners and the visibility of the flags will make urbanites passing through aware of the natural vegetation potential rooftops have.
Bloomberg Philanthropies understands that art can be a very powerful tool—one that brings communities together and helps drive economic development. It is for this reason that they started the Public Art Challenge, a new program that recently invited U.S. cities with over 30,000 residents to submit proposals for transformative projects. Three of these cities will be granted up to $1 million each for their art projects that are supposed to establish public-private partnerships, bolster the economy, and improve quality of life.
Struggling to think of what a “transformative” art project may look like? You might be thinking too far outside the box. The High Line in New York City, once an old New York Central Railroad line, is now an “aerial greenway” (floating park). The 1.45-mile-long park runs along the Lower West Side of Manhattan and gets nearly 5 million visitors annually. Besides natural perks like the 210 native species growing, the High Line has also revitalized Chelsea—a once “gritty” neighborhood in the late 20th century.