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Student Blog: Art is a beautiful tool for educating society

13 December 2018

A few weeks ago, I went to the Montreux Art Gallery and one painting really caught my attention while I was walking. I have always loved the painting ‘The Great Wave of Kanagawa’, by Katsushika Hokusai, which depicts a large blue wave with a foaming white peak and a snow-covered mountain in the background; and, for a moment, I thought this was the painting. However, the painting in the MAG exhibition was a satirical take on Hokusai’s painting; the wave in this version of ‘The Great Wave of Kanagawa’ was full of garbage and instead of a snow-covered mountain, there was a smog-filled city. As I gazed at the piece of art, I realized for the first time the power that art has to illustrate the problem of pollution, and the importance of using art to inform and communicate the important message of living as sustainably as possible.

Sustainability. This word means living in a way that protects our planet – not using up all its natural resources or harming it with our pollution. Recently, I read a stunning fact: since 1970, the population of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish have been reduced by half as a result of global warming, destruction of their habitat by humans, and illegal trade in animals. Yet, in the face of that fact, what do people do? We live as if we had more than one planet, we expel what nature provides and we steal little by little the life of our planet.

A big part of the problem is that not all people understand how important it is that we look after our environment, or feel that because they are just one person, they cannot make a difference.   For me, it was a few years ago that I realized that, actually, I could help make a difference; be part of the cause, a cause for hope, hope for our world, for us. And at the MAG exhibition, I started to think about how I, as someone who loves using art to express what I feel, could use art to inspire others to live more sustainably.

Art is a way in which we can make people feel. We can use art to create real connections and transmit emotions which cannot be explained – unique sensations that stay with us. And so, with art, we can help people to emotionally appreciate an important message or purpose. One of the main goals of sustainability is to develop practices that do not negatively affect the next generations.  We need to make sure that every generation can satisfy their own needs, especially ones that involve the use of natural resources.  To ensure this, we need to start using our resources with intelligence and wisdom. This is one of the reasons why I think sustainability is a matter of such importance.

But the problem is – how do we communicate this message? From my perspective art is the solution. It is a beautiful tool for educating society. Art has the magic of awakening someone's interest: sounds, words, shapes, colors, volumes, movements – all of them have a solid and indescribable power and that is what we need now – the power of art to change how someone lives. Artists are aware of the power they have and they are starting to use their talent to strongly communicate the terrible effect global warming and pollution are having on our planet.  Seeing the painting of the plastic filled wave and smog shrouded city at the MAG exhibit was inspiring because it showed me that I can do the same: if one artist can use their talent for something so important, I can do it too; and, in the future, I might make a change with my voice and my art. I hope that we can save our planet and allow the next generations of artists to paint crystal-clear waves, snow-covered mountains, and cities surrounded by blue sky.