Untitled
Jen Ray
2008
Limited edition inkjet print
23.875 x 31.5 in
Gallery Purchase

By: Clare Harbin ’22 (she/her)

Why does art matter? Art is a unifying and universal way to communicate emotions or thoughts. Unlike anything else, art can draw people in and inspire them to care about issues and people beyond themselves and their communities. When it comes to environmental activism, art is not a supplemental tool, but rather a necessary and vital part of the work towards environmental justice. It is so easy to hide behind numbers or a “non-science” background in order to ignore the environmental atrocities that occur every year and the considerable lack of strident work towards eradicating climate change. Art absolutely and unequivocally changes that.

On Davidson’s campus, you can find ongoing artistic work as a means to shed light on climate change and environmental activism. Through visual storytelling, these projects meet students and members of the community where they are in their knowledge on environmental injustice — to inspire, to inform, and to call to action the necessary work for environmental justice for which each of us are responsible. 

When I was pitched this piece, I was extremely excited to seek out various art activism works. I spent a large majority of my time on this spread interviewing a number of incredible students and artists on the work that they created or curated to materialize as a form of activism. Their final products cannot be ignored. The stories they tell cannot be hidden. Truly, environmental injustice and climate change affect every single one of us. In our Davidson community, our inaction to call for real and significant changes disproportionately affects BIPOC and other marginalized groups in our town and the broader area. They significantly affect the Indigenous communities in this state upon whose land we go to school, travel, and build. 

Art has the means and the job to tell those stories. Art, as a means of visual storytelling, of expressing emotions and intentions through the artistic work as a whole, gives faces and stories to the statistics. We as humans would not be as empathetic to the injustices environmental dangers cause, simply because huge numbers and statistics are often hard to grasp to the degree of their impact. It is stories we must tell and focus on as students at a predominantly white institution, and as human beings. Art is the only way to do that.