[ art as change | change as art ]

On the weekend I had the privilege hearing Australian artist Lynette Wallworth at TEDxSydney. Lynette uses video installation, photography and film to explore our relationship with ourselves, others and the natural world. Her presentation gave a preview into her new film project Coral Rekindling Venus, which explores underwater worlds to celebrate a rare astronomical event in the transit of Venus. In Lynette’s own words she talks about her work:

Imagine global co-operation for a global problem. Imagine corals as the barometer of climate change. Imagine we are the pivot point. Imagine rekindling Venus.

My intent is to leave the audience with a sense of wonder for the complexity of the coral community and a deep-felt longing to see it survive.

It was such a beautiful example and affirmation of the role of art and film in changemaking. I have been often inspired by those changemakers who utilise art in working with people, communities and in communicating new thinking and ideas. In a world obsessed with entrepreneurship as the most effective and legitimate vehicle for change, we ignore to our detriment the power and ethic of art as a universal and enduring force for change.

Just as art is a vehicle for change, so too is change an art. Having worked extensively with changemakers over the past few years, some of the most exciting projects I have witnessed were highly creative in how they have been born and grown. I think of businesses like The Groundswell Project which have taken new and fresh approaches to making change in their respective fields. Sometimes I think that a term like ‘change artist’ is a more accurate term than ‘social entrepreneur’ in describing them and the processes they use.

I have also wondered about the role that philanthropy could play in rethinking how to support social change. Arts philanthropy has a beautiful tradition. Philanthropists have long seen the role that artists, musicians and creatives play in the world, and not just from an aesthetic point of view. In many cases. arts philanthropy also operates differently to how other social change philanthropy works. In the social change space there is an increasing drive for outputs and outcomes, where the only initatives that are worth pursuing are those that are proven and measurable. When only working with what is measurable and proven, where is the room to venture into new territories to find new ways of creating change?

Arts philanthropy trusts the artist and their process. They fund the artist to create what they need, want or are inspired to create. They respect the vocation and trust their process. I wonder what it might look like to see changemakers as artists, to fund their time, and allow for new possibilities to emerge through the creative process.

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