Ars gratia artisArs gratia artis” the classicist may shout—“art for art’s sake!” Yet, there is often no way to divorce many pieces of art from the function and politics that they serve. When looking at art, “art for art’s sake” often rings false. This is particularly the case for many pieces of public art designed with the intention of raising awareness for a certain issue. Being open and receptive to this issue is often how public art fights global poverty.

Public Art and Communication

As a means of spreading awareness, public art is exceptional. Public art is often large, accessible and easily observed; its public nature proves distinctly advantageous in comparison to private art hidden away in homes or museums. Public art in cities with sizeable populations and heavy foot traffic has the potential to be seen by millions of people, such as the case for New York’s Public Art Fund, which exhibited Ai Weiwei’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.

The Public Art Fund’s mission is to bring to New York’s “broad audience” work on an “international scope and impact.” In other words, The Public Art Fund means to share important works of art with a large number of people often to raise awareness of certain issues.

On display from March to October 2018 is Yinka Shinobare’s “Wind Sculpture,” which addresses the movement of people, including the artist, whose childhood was split between England and West Africa across space and time. The piece asks empathy of its audience and for them consider the vast experiences of migrants around the world, an important statement amidst a global refugee crisis. “Wind Sculpture” offers viewers the chance to look at movement, using the wind as an adept metaphor for humanity. Thus, public art fights global poverty through its aspirational tone.

Another major piece of public art, Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree”, allows passersby in various cities to share their aspirations for the future by attaching them to the branches of the eponymous tree. Themes emerge from the messages dangling from these trees: hope for peace and happiness and an overall sense of equality and camaraderie among people. Public art offers the chance to reflect on one’s hopes for the world and inspires the fight against global poverty.

Public Artists Sending A Message

Of course, as Banksy and The Guerrilla Girls have shown, it may be the case that public art fights global poverty in a more confrontational way. The Guerrilla Girls, active since the 1980s, have used street installations and posters to tackle political and social issues around the world often through clandestine means. They projected criticism of The Whitney Museum right on the side of the museum in 2015. Meanwhile, Banksy is an internationally renowned street artist. His art is noted for being controversial, but frequently addresses human rights issues and political corruption.

Perhaps one of the best examples of public art working as a form of global poverty advocacy is, however, The Water Tank Project, which is an exhibition using the water tanks above New York City to raise awareness of international water issues. The project also provides a platform both for emerging artists as well as New York public school students. It coincided with the founding of the “Trace the Tap” educational campaign, which provides a curriculum to teach students about water through ecological, social and economic perspectives among others. And, of course, the public art project features some incredibly beautiful murals decorating the walls of New York’s water tanks.

In a 3-year Gallup study, aesthetics such as public art and social spaces were found to be integral to community building and community attachment. This affirms the importance of public art. Moreover, with the rise of sustainable art, and with the shifting nature of international politics and the refugee crisis, there is a need for more public art. Public art fights global poverty, and, thus, it is a mainstay of urban development and U.S. culture.

William Wilcox
Photo: Flickr

Remember in “Forrest Gump” when Tom Hanks’ title character ran across the country? Everyone asked him why he did it and he said he just felt like running. So he ran.

Inspired by his favorite film, Barclay Oudersluys is currently on a run across the United States in an event he titled Project Gump. The 23-year-old began his trip in California and plans to end in Maine in less than 100 days, for a total of 3,200 miles.

But Oudersluys isn’t running simply for the sake of a good run; he is on a cross-country run to raise awareness and funds for the Hall Step Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to ending global poverty. Founded in 2009 by professional runners Ryan and Sara Hall, the organization fights extreme poverty by improving health. During his 100-day run, Oudersluys would like to raise $10,000 for the organization.

The journey quite accurately follows that of Forrest Gump’s. It began at Santa Monica Pier and will end at the famous Marshall Point Lighthouse, just like in the movie. Running about 32 miles everyday in five to seven hours, Oudersluys has covered over 2,000 miles in 68 days.

Fortunately, Oudersluys has some seriously awesome friends that are driving cross-country in a van full of food, water and clothes as he runs. He typically rests in the back of the van or drives to a hotel each night.

Running across the country surely means seeing historical landmarks and meeting interesting people and Oudersluys has definitely seen some cool things, including another runner journeying across the country in the opposite direction.

Documenting his journey on Twitter and Instagram, Oudersluys hasn’t forgotten what his run is all about–lending his voice (or legs) to the fight against global poverty. Check out Project Gump’s mission and fundraising progress at their website, or follow Oudersluys on social media.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Telegraph, 6abc, The Steps Foundation
Photo: Flickr

Graduation season is in full swing and high school seniors around the nation are getting ready to accept their diplomas. . . . as well as finish their senior projects! With the high stress of leaving high school and becoming increasingly independent, graduating seniors often hurry to finalize their end-of-the-year, self-directed projects. What better way to leave a legacy behind than to use a senior project to help change the world? Here are four project ideas that inspire social change:

1. Host a presentation about U.S. foreign aid statistics.

There are many myths in public opinion that hurt positive policy making and social change. For example, contrary to popular belief, the U.S. actually spends 2 percent of its budget on foreign aid and not 25-30 percent. Sending foreign aid to nations with high rates of corruption does not make them more corrupt, and the U.S. actually does receive positive returns when we increase our foreign aid. These social myths make social change harder to achieve.

For a senior project, create a slideshow correcting social myths. Take full advantage of an eager, energetic crowd of friends and family, and spread knowledge to educate and inspire people.

2. Volunteer at a nonprofit organization for a semester.

Volunteering: good for the soul and good for the community – and also good for the brain.

Volunteering at a nonprofit organization for a semester gives students the chance to learn the inner workings of the nonprofit industrial complex. Students can learn how resources are obtained and distributed, how politics play out in charity affairs and how a group of people with passionate ideas can become an organization in the first place. Learning this process and sharing it with classmates has invaluable domino effects of inspiration. Volunteering for a semester gives students the tools to build social change.

3. Collect garbage instead of throwing it away.

A senior project consisting of not throwing out the trash, sounds easy right? We often underestimate the amount of trash we produce. Storing full trash bags is more difficult than it sounds and produces a shock factor to any audience. Use a senior project to weigh the school’s waste and make people more aware of their waste. This will instigate social change as people will be inspired to use less and recycle more. The environment will appreciate it.

4. Host a graduation party to raise awareness.

Use this occasion to reflect not just upon personal successes but upon other successes in the world as well. Dedicate a party to raising awareness about a particular cause and spend the evening educating friends as well as celebrating them.

There are various ways to make a difference in the world. We are seldom given audiences as eager as those that attend high school senior project presentations. By spreading awareness among our friends and family about social issues, graduating high school seniors can help change the world – and maybe even an “A” along the way.

– Tanya Kureishi

Sources: Borgen Project, The Hill
Photo: Flickr

The UK campaign, Enough Food for Everyone If, knows how to use statistics in a way that emphasizes their message.

The statistic they are currently using is that hunger kills every 10 seconds. This is derived from the fact that three million children died from hunger in 2011. Those three million deaths spread evenly across the year equals ten seconds a death.

Some assert that this statistic is a manipulation of the data, as the real issues surrounding those three million deaths are slightly complicated. It is not as simple as people simply starving to death.

A large portion of the deaths involved in the three million per year statistic are caused by infectious diseases or other things that poor nutrition can be related to. When children aren’t given the proper nutrition in the earliest parts of their lives, their bodies are much more susceptible to infectious diseases that a normal healthy child would simply be able to fight off.

The problem isn’t only involving malnutrition in children, but also malnutrition in mothers. In many societies, women aren’t given the best food in the household, therefore they can end up being malnourished during pregnancy and breast feeding, leading to malnutrition in their children.

Malnutrition is especially prevalent in communities that rely heavily on cereals and starches for their diets. These areas tend to neglect the importance of fruits and vegetables in their diets, and sometimes it is the case that milk or meats are avoided in these areas for cultural reasons.

Despite the complexities revolving around the statistic perpetuated by the IF campaign, the campaigners rely on the ‘hunger kills every 10 seconds’ statistic to give people a concrete way to think about the magnitude of global hunger. When people hear that three million died of hunger in 2011 they tend to block it out, as it is hard to conceptualize such a large number. The Enough Food for Everyone If campaign puts this statistic in an easy to understand way that makes people identify with individuals in poverty.

Enough Food for Everyone If uses its resources to raise awareness about world hunger in order to impact governmental decisions in favor of providing more aid to developing countries. The campaign also has put out helpful ways that people can contribute to ending hunger through their consumer choices, such as buying local, in season vegetables. The campaign is exemplifying how putting data in a certain manner and context can make all the difference in the impact is has.

Martin Drake

Source: BBC News, Enough Food for Everyone If
Photo: BBC News Images

Music fans all over the country are constantly scrounging for those rare ticket opportunities that make the concert-going lifestyle more affordable. Especially for those still in school, ticket prices represent a significant obstacle to enjoying a favorite band or a killer night out with friends. So, whether it’s through a radio contest, ticket lottery, or sponsored corporate giveaway, free tickets are always nice. Now artists are making it possible to score those free tickets and tackle global poverty at the same time.

The Rolling Stones reports that major artists, like Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen, have joined Global Citizen Ticket Drive to donate two tickets from every show they play to inspire social activism. The idea is to place the tickets in a lottery where fans can use points they have gathered as the entry fee. The tickets come from the artists’ personal stash. So, there’s no worry about the shows selling out beforehand.

Fans collect points by setting up an account on Global Citizen’s webpage and posting poverty awareness videos on social media websites, signing petitions, or contacting local politicians among many other ways. Once an account holder has earned points, he or she can search local venues for their favorite artists and dump their easily-earned points into a lottery for the two available tickets. It’s that easy!

Not only are the usual suspects involved in the charity drive – Pearl Jam has a long history of donating to such drives, others were quick to answer the call: Kanye West, My Morning Jacket, and Black Sabbath have agreed to contribute two tickets a piece from their shows. Actually, the list is really impressive. Even major festivals, like Coachella and Bonnaroo, are on board.

For Black Sabbath, the move is a timely one, as they also just released a new album and are already plotting their next world tour. The album features a hit song, “God Is Dead,” which Ozzy notes is a commentary on global terrorism. In line with their general attention to global issues, it’s no wonder that the band is backing Global Citizen Ticket Drive.

The ticket donation drive is only one of Global Citizen’s means to address global poverty; they also put on a concert just last year that netted $1.3 billion for the cause. Headlining the show were Neil Young and Crazy Horse, the Foo Fighters, and the Black Keys.

– Herman Watson

Sources: The Rolling Stone, Global Citizen, Look to the Stars, CBS News, Loudwire

What Americans Should Learn from Sk8 to the Finish
In an age of airplanes and automobiles, biking 264 miles would be considered wildly inadequate. Yet Australian activist Michael Traffard will perform this task as a metaphor for Australia’s “inadequate” foreign policy, and Americans should be taking notes.

On July 7th, Traffard will begin his Sk8 to the Finish campaign, in which he will skateboard and BMX riders from the town of Emerald to the city of Gladstone throughout the following 20 days. Along the way, Traffard will be making appearances at churches and schools to raise poverty awareness. This will be taking place two months prior to Australia’s 2013 federal election in September.

Traffard is conducting this campaign to raise awareness of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals established in 2000 by the world’s developed countries. The Millennium Project is an initiative to halve global poverty by 2015, yet few nations are still meeting the requirements to make this possible. A target of 0.70% of each nation’s budget was established to make this goal a reality. Australia currently gives 0.36% of its budget to the cause: about half of what is needed.

Although Australia’s aid is lacking, they are not the only ones falling short. The United States may appear to be leading the pack by giving roughly 30 billion dollars for Official Development Assistance (ODA), but that figure isn’t as pretty when held relative to the nation’s Gross National Income (GNI). The United States currently gives 0.19% of its budget to the cause, which is almost half of Australia’s level of giving.

As of 2012, only five developed countries are meeting or exceeding the 0.70% requirement: Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Australia rests in 13th place when ranking countries by their degree of charity. The United States sits in 19th place.

One of the Millennium Project’s greatest enemies is a lack of awareness. Numerous citizens worldwide are not educated about the existence of the Millennium Development Goals, and political leaders are not informed of the issues as a result. Traffard hopes to give his audiences a clear understanding of the facts to take with them to the polls when election day arrives.

Traffard’s campaign does not mean to undercut the progress Australia has made in the past 13 years. Victories in global poverty have been numerous, including the eradication of smallpox and a 33% increase in life expectancy in the developing world. Traffard hopes his campaign will lead to an increase in aid that will be focused directly on life-saving programs.

Upon the conclusion of his trip, Traffard hopes to amass 3000 signatures for the Australian Movement to End Poverty Petition. The Petition currently has 57,968 signatures, and the Sk8 To The Finish campaign has already yielded 200 signatures.

Sk8 to the Finish is a perfect example of how an individual’s talents and passions can be utilized to combat global poverty. The Millennium Project’s goal to halve global poverty is well within reach if citizens of every applicable country demand it, and seemingly outrageous feats are effective in gathering attention. The United States needs to play catch up in order to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, so Traffard’s message should be heeded by American citizens as well. Even from thousands of miles away, the same principles can still be applicable.

– Timothy Monbleau

Sources: OECD, The Gladstone Observer, UN Millennium Project
Photo: Men’s Fitness