The mediums of art and design have long been used to raise awareness of environmental, political and social issues. Often it is the simple format of poster art that gets used in these cases because they are so easy to distribute, reproduce and quickly get up on to walls in the home and out on the streets.
Art and Design has a vital role to play in responding to crisis by documenting, expressing, reflecting and communicating. This creates powerful messaging that in many cases will get published or hung on a wall for people to observe and reflect upon, but in some cases will become icons of a time or movement in the public consciousness.
Sadly, often these images are painted after the event or document a great tragedy from which lessons must be learnt for the future. But can art make a difference to events happening in the world right now? Can it help ease the suffering of those directly in need today?
On March 11, Japan was struck by a historic 9.0 earthquake, followed by an extraordinarily destructive tsunami and partial meltdowns at three nuclear reactors. Now, over two months later, the Japanese are still coping with an incredible accumulation of sorrow, devastation and anxiety about the future.
To help with the Japan relief efforts and to spread awareness, support and hope, prominent artists and designers from all over the world have been creating positive heartfelt imagery to make their own personal contributions.
In some cases, these images are just icons we observe as reminders of this cataclysmic event, but others directly support those in need through critical fundraising – all or some of the money raised from sales goes directly to charities supporting the relief effort in Japan.
I don’t know about you, but to me this act of generosity is really quite humbling. Let’s face it, not all of us are cut out to run a marathon or able to directly donate large sums ourselves, so it’s fantastic to see people turn their skills towards new methods of fundraising.
Of course, the fundraising world has always had the concept of the charity auction, many of which may include art work amongst the various items available, but it feels that only in the internet age is it possible for someone to construct such powerful imagery that becomes available for public purchase around the world within minutes of a disaster happening.
In some ways it feels that receiving printed or original art work gives permanence to the memory of a particular event, shows gratitude on behalf of the charity and makes the act of giving all the more tangible – something that is very valuable for donors for whom it can seem so impersonal at times to send money to a far off place and join the sea of likeminded well wishers.