Archive for March 30th, 2011

Art for Justice: Young Artists Raise Awareness of Environmental Issues

Art for Justice: Young Artists Raise Awareness of Environmental Issues


Posted March 28th, 2011, by Alex Boley, Center for American Progress, Campus Progress,

Campus Progress is unveiling the first Art Fair at Power Shift, the largest national conference training more than 10,000 leaders on how to secure a clean energy future. Artists have a history of addressing social justice issues in their work, and that tradition will continue at the Art Fair, where leaders will learn about environmental injustices. Ryan, a crocheted curtain made of plastic, is one piece being featured at the event. We contacted the artist behind Ryan, Keli Anaya and asked him talk about his art in the context of the environmental justice movement.

What do you see as the role of art in movements like environmental justice?

I think art has a broad role in environmental justice. Art has the potential for revolution and as our environment changes; artists will react to those changes which will be reflected in their work. People need to see images of what we are actually doing to the world. That revolution is currently happening. Art is understood by everyone, which is its power. It has the capability to show the world that the environment is important and that they should be involved in maintaining the one and only place we have to live.

Could you talk a little about your own experience in being involved in advocating for environmental justice?

I started becoming environmentally conscious in college. Rumors flew around that a recycling program did not exist at GW because there wasn’t enough money. Bins dotted the campus but were apparently a candy-coated fake out. I felt deceived and realized that environmentalism maybe didn’t matter as much as money.

Then, Oprah had an investigation on the whirlpools of trash in the world’s oceans. I saw images of trash dumps the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean. She spoke of fish that ate the plastic because they thought it was food. Birds ate the fish and so on and so forth up the food chain.  That really affected me.

The final, solidifying event occurred while studying abroad in Spain. Spain is a small country with limited resources, especially in the arid South. Showers were kept to a few minutes- max because of constant drought the country has faced in recent years. Spain also had recycling bins on every corner. It was such a contrast to the United States.

When I returned I realized that I could actually do something to help the environment and started making art that revolved around environmentalism. I focused on garbage and our disregard of waste. My art is just one way which I advocate for the environment and environmental justice.

Why did you submit work to the Art Fair?

I submitted work to the Art Fair because I knew there would be a place for my work to be seen and understood by people passionate about its concept.  It’s important for me to make a statement about something I care about. I hope that others will interact with my work and realize its power.

How would you encourage others to submit their work to the Art Fair at Power Shift?

I would tell other artists that most work has some relation to the environment. Everyone is affected by it and it will inherently come out in their work.  The Art Fair will be an incredible way to send a powerful message that the environment is important and we should take care to preserve it.

If you would like to submit your art to the Art Fair at Power Shift, fill out the submission form and send a high resolution picture of your piece to The deadline for submissions is March 30.

Keli Anaya is a graduate of George Washington University with degrees in Anthropology and Fine Art. He is originally from Texas where he grew up in Monahans before resettling in the Dallas suburbs. You can check out more of Keli’s work here.