Street art has evolved from being perceived as mere graffiti on city walls to becoming an impactful tool for social and environmental change. With its vibrant colors and captivating designs, street art has the ability to transcend boundaries and capture the attention of a diverse audience. This art form has become an integral part of urban landscapes, serving as a catalyst for conversations and inspiring action. In this article, we will explore the role of street art in promoting sustainability and how it is driving the sustainability movement.
Street art is known for its subversive character, which causes mixed and diverse reactions among society. On the one hand street art’s edgy character allows it to convey important messages to the public, on the other hand it causes mixed feelings among both the viewers and the street artists themselves. It is an answer to many questions that arise in today’s society and can at the least act as a wake-up call on many issues facing our society and at the most can act as a call to action. Street art plays a crucial role in promoting sustainability by raising awareness about environmental issues and advocating for positive change. Artists all over the world are using their talents to create visually stunning pieces that highlight the importance of protecting our planet. These artworks serve as a reminder that we have a collective responsibility to take care of the environment and inspire individuals to adopt sustainable practices in their daily lives.
Over the course of its development, street art has undergone some changes. One of the turning points is its legalization, which has since been referred to in creative circles as “public art” or “legal murals”. Often commissioned by cities or property owners, such public art is considered culturally enriching and socially acceptable. Artists use their skills to create visually captivating pieces that convey messages of hope, unity, and environmental consciousness. By transforming ordinary public spaces into colorful works of art, these artists are able to capture the attention of passersby and spark conversations about sustainability.
Over the past couple of years, there is now a growing consenses for the need to bridge the divide between science and culture in the movement for sustainable development. In this case, the harsh reality of temperature increases, while well documented, still faces an incredible amount of misinformation and even denial.
Environmental street art goes beyond aesthetics and serves a specific purpose — raising awareness about environmental issues. Artists create thought-provoking pieces that highlight the consequences of pollution, deforestation, and other destructive practices. These artworks often depict the beauty of nature juxtaposed with the negative impacts of human activities. Environmental street art challenges viewers to confront the consequences of their actions and consider the long-term effects of their choices. By creating art with a purpose, artists are able to engage the public in conversations about sustainability and inspire them to make more conscious decisions.
The rising trend of artivism, where artists actively engage in political and social activism through their creations, has gained momentum in recent times. Artivism, especially in the realm of climate change and ecology, expresses itself through various mediums, including sculpture, painting, photography, installations, poetry, and cinema, to provoke thought and promote collective responsibility.
Climate change art pieces are powerful visual representations of the urgency to address environmental issues. These artworks often depict the devastating effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and the loss of biodiversity. By creating impactful images that evoke emotions, artists aim to convey the seriousness of the climate crisis and inspire individuals to take immediate action.
Many pieces depict brightly coloured images of the animal and plant world in different styles. However, even just an ordinary image of a bear or any other animal in abstract form already has many meanings. Firstly, it adds colour to monotonous buildings and creates a mood to the place where the street art is located. Secondly, bright and unusual shapes forming a flower, trees, or animals underline a symbolic meaning that is understandable to a very wide audience regardless of their culture, language and traditions. These important aspects ultimately form an important message about the need to live harmoniously with the world around us.
Many street artists directly pose uncomfortable questions that affect all of us. Often street art is complemented by text messages that reinforce the impact of the message. Secondly, the subversive nature of the messages is directed more towards those who make the decisions to address the environmental situation, i.e. politicians and rich people with power. However, the paradox is that nowadays, due to the popularity of street art, city authorities or influential people invest in the development of street artists’ creative projects, thus causing a struggle between institutions and decision makers, which undermines the essence of the street art movement itself, which originally strived for freedom of expression.
One great example of an impactful street art project is “Efecto Mariposa” (translated from Spanish — “Butterfly Effect”) by Spanish artists Olimpia Velasco and Esther Pizarro. This project won the street art competition against climate change organised by the city of Brussels and the Spanish Embassy in the Kingdom of Belgium. The project was unveiled on 23 September 2020 in the courtyard of the Chancery of the Spanish Embassy in Belgium. Using sustainable materials, the artists created an outdoor installation that encourages viewers to reflect on the delicate balance between nature and the footprints that humans leave on its flora and fauna.
In general, the desire of city authorities to interact with urban artists is a positive development. However, we need to ensure that this new interest in the importance of street art continues to maintain its core meaning. This is what sustainable dialogue is all about, which is always in search of meaning, flexibility of decision-making, which is largely facilitated by the art world in general, and street art in particular.
As we continue to face environmental challenges, street art serves as a beacon of hope and a reminder of our collective responsibility to protect the planet. By following street art movements, engaging with local artists, and supporting initiatives that promote sustainability, we can all contribute to the growing momentum of the sustainability movement.
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Veronika Gorshkova is currently enrolled as a Ph.D. student in Ethics and Politics of Respect for Cultural Differences at the University of Barcelona, Spain. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia (2020) and Master’s Degree in Marketing and Communication from Universidad Católica San Antonio De Murcia, Spain (2021).