Now, New and Next: Fundraising philanthropy and the environmental agenda

Now, New and Next: Fundraising philanthropy and the environmental agenda

By Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy


The Spring 2022 edition of Now, New and Next from Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy explores fundraising philanthropy and the environmental agenda. Trends, statistics and expertise for arts, heritage and cultural fundraisers.

A range of expert voices offer their insight and expertise across some of the key fundraising and philanthropy topics of the moment, and the opportunities and challenges facing the arts sector as a whole.

This issue covers:

  • Can the arts save the planet?
  • How can funders encourage green philanthropy?
  • Let's Create (Environmentally): the implications of the new Arts Council England strategy for arts fundraising
  • Funding, collaborating and developing the cultural sector's response to climate change
  • Overcoming the hurdles - what are the next steps for radical change in how we consume and experience art?
  • What is ESG investing going to mean for trustees and charity investment?
  • What can we learn from the IoF environmental toolkit?
  • What are the best eco-friendly fundraisers?
  • Can corporate sponsorship be an effective part of the environmental agenda?

Can the Arts help save the planet? What role do our artists, organisations and activists have in setting the environmental agenda?

By Michelle Wright, Director of Arts Fundraising & Philanthropy

Of course, we know that the arts have the potential to change the world, but what can really be achieved in the area of the environment?

Claudia Rinke, writing for Innovators Magazine, offers optimism that art has the power to change society and the world, by moving people and offering new experiences. She explains that art encourages people to change their thinking and perceptions.

Art can also take the form of protest and can be a source of inspiration for economic and political leaders, activists, and all people interested in finding solutions.

Where it started

The arts have for decades been engaged in the discussion surrounding the environment. Examples of Environmental Art can be seen as far back as the 1960s, through initiatives such as Land Art.

Land Art, also known as earth art, links to the wider movement of conceptual art, a movement of artists who made pieces directly in the landscape. Land art emerged in the USA, in part as a component of a growing interest in ecology, environmental preservation, political activism, and women’s liberation, and as a protest against the commercial art market and an industrialised and polluted urban society.

Land Art was nonetheless criticised as leaving marks on nature and disrupting the natural landscape. The counter to this was Sustainable Art and Ecological Art. Sustainable Art is more careful about its influence and mark on nature, using natural materials that can easily decompose or leave no waste, either leaving no mark or even improving the natural landscape.

Ecological Art, or eco-art, meanwhile has a clear environmental goal. It has an activist and socially engaged aspect. Examples might include renewable energy sculptures.

The value of the arts in the environmental agenda

Through creativity and its ability to inspire, there are several ways that the arts add value to the environmental agenda.

Method 1: Art for Awareness Raising

One of the most common forms of artistic engagement is in terms of environmentally themed art and exhibitions.

For example, the General Ecology programme of the Serpentine includes in its ethos an expansion of the definition of art to include environmental campaigns. This project was founded in 2018, bringing together practitioners from art, design, science, literature, anthropology, through publications, exhibitions, study programmes, radio, symposia, and live events, plus structural and systemic initiatives.

Similarly, as part of COP 26, the Polar Zero exhibition at Glasgow Science Centre saw a wonderful collaboration between science, art and engineering featuring newly commissioned work from the artist and sculptor Wayne Binitie. The centrepiece is an original glass sculpture containing air from the year 1765. Extracted from an Antarctic ice core and preserved forever within the sculpture, this air connects its audience with a pivotal moment in the Earth’s history, the dawn of the industrial revolution.


Method 2: Art as a Role Model for Sustainability

An example of the role of the arts in becoming more sustainable is the Climate Museum UK which is both mobile and digital. It collects responses and produces and gathers objects in order to activate people in response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

Another example is Glyndebourne which has been working for over a decade on a goal of becoming carbon neutral in its direct operations through redirecting its excess energy generation to the National Grid.

Similarly, all 46 theatres of the European Theatre Convention (ETC) network have agreed to reduce their carbon admissions to net zero by 2030, signing the Sustainable Action Code which has as its focus environmentally friendly changes to theatres – their organisations, their buildings, and their productions.


Future agenda and potential limits

Of course, the arts can do their bit but there are also limits. As Paul Arendt commented: Can the arts really save the world? In the short term, the answer is probably still no. That job must fall to politicians. But what the arts can do is remind us that it’s possible to save the world. Art can shock us – spur us – into action. Perhaps, therefore, the most meaningful role for the arts, is as a call to action.

We can ensure provocative presentation of the effects of climate change through art which inspires or motivates people to address climate change. We can also lead by example, encouraging more environmentally sustainable ways of operating as businesses and organisations, venues and productions, which might just encourage others to do the same.

Can the arts really save the world? In the short term, the answer is probably still no. That job must fall to politicians. But what the arts can do is remind us that it’s possible to save the world.

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Resource type: Articles | Published: 2022