In an age of grave warnings about environmental deterioration, it is no coincidence that many artists are advocating for a more sustainable future. As I have previously discussed in “The Arts Industry and Eco-Consciousness,” there is often a gap between the artistic expression of ecology, and implementing ecological art to affect environmental change. In the contemporary global art market, the art is often labeled a commodity. However, many arts organizations and artists today are looking to expand the usefulness of art, and U.K. organization Creative Carbon Scotland is leading the way.
By Allison Palenske
With a mission to engage, support, and inspire arts organizations to operate sustainably and utilize their creativity to affect ecological preservation, it is clear that Creative Carbon Scotland respects the symbiotic relationship of the cultural sector with the Green movement. Creative Carbon Scotland offers tools like the Green Arts Portal, an online system available for creative organizations to track their carbon footprint, as well as the Green Arts Initiative, a simple sustainability accreditation system provided to companies, offices, individuals and venues operating within the cultural sector. Amongst these services the organization also hosts workshops, provides advice, and has a firm commitment to furthering research in the field of arts sustainability.
Creative Carbon Scotland’s continuous involvement with the Edinburgh Art Festival is a specific strand of research that addresses the global aspect of the contemporary art world. For this year’s festival, Creative Carbon Scotland will be monitoring the carbon implications of the festival’s major exhibition Where do I end and you begin. Inspired by the theme of the Commonwealth, the exhibition brings together curators and artists from over 20 nations. Data will be collected on the logistics of exhibition production, such as the travel and transportation of artworks and people, as well as the materials and energy used in the installation and running of the exhibition.
Creative Carbon Scotland Project Officer Gemma Lawrence explains, “people, whether that is curators, administrators or artists, will need to find their path into this area of work and will need to find what inspires them about it.” Themes of sustainability within Where do I end and you begin reach beyond reducing the carbon footprint or the cost of the exhibition, but also include the thematic links to sustainability and ecology.
Where do I end and you begin links to a wider Visual Arts Research project for Creative Carbon Scotland by examining the environmental implication of major international arts events. At last year’s Edinburgh Art Festival, Creative Carbon Scotland collaborated with ecoartscotland, Art Space Nature, artists Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, and programing professional Chris Malcolm to produce the CO2 Edenburgh project. The project traced CO2 levels in the city of Edinburgh during the festivals when the population of the city nearly triples. The findings were presented at the Tent Gallery of Edinburgh College of Art—the exhibition was also accompanied by guided city tours and discussion events.
As the concept of implementing sustainable development within the arts is very much developing, the research initiated by Creative Carbon Scotland is invaluable to the future of the cultural sector. Having data and understanding trends in this data can help countries achieve more progressive carbon emissions reduction targets. As Creative Carbon Scotland has proven, the imagination and creativity that is present within the cultural sector has the potential to produce innovative ideas for the future of society as we strive for a more sustainable existence.