Creating the Handbook of artistic sustainability

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Article by Hanna Granlund

The role of art in the green transition must be prominent. Art has a unique position to speak to the hearts and minds of the audience, showing possible futures and embodying current issues. The world of the artist is an eclectic and experimental place. This is important for the freedom of the arts, while at the same time bringing along a general lack of standards and methodologies. This makes environmentally friendly practices difficult to implement and oversee on a large scale. Our goal is nonetheless to support this transition, as all areas of society must adapt to limit harmful effects on our planet.

During the winter of 2023-2024, the members of the E-ART project group researched the national and international situation for artists and crafters. Our aim was to map the challenges and possibilities for working sustainably on a local as well as on a European level. In doing so, we came across many different actors in a wide array of fields. Some are working to transition their art practices into something more environmentally conscious, others are maintaining long-established artistic traditions and heritage practices that are less damaging to the environment than modern modes of production. Some are working in less resource-demanding ways due to necessity, others are doing so in spite of easier options. Many work to inspire a greater consciousness in their audience, turning abstract data and statistics about climate change into tangible and emotionally captivating artistic experiences. Others are working to alleviate the impacts of climate change on the living environment of their audience, strengthening not only ecological sustainability but social and economic sustainability as well.

It is easy to feel isolated working with sustainability in art. Whether you are a single artist or a group, working independently or as part of a larger organisation, acting in environmentally conscious ways can at times feel like struggling through a morass. In the handbook, you will find 30 examples ranging from zero-electricity exhibitions to car-tire recycling social media groups.

This collection is but a sample taken from a reservoir of sustainability initiatives, and it shows that we are not struggling alone. There are many others out there who share the same desire for art that both serves the needs of the community and which does not rely on unsustainable extraction of natural resources or vast energy requirements. The handbook contains internet links and QR codes for further reading, as well as literature recommendations for the overall state of sustainability in the various fields of art and culture in the EU. We hope that by reading this, you will find resources and inspiration for yourself and for your own creative practices.

Dowload the handbook >>

About the author

Hanna Granlund is a project coordinator, communicator and researcher for Intercult. She has a bachelor’s degree in Art history and a master’s degree in Heritage studies from Stockholm University. Her work focuses on public art and transnational cultural heritage.

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