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Art Action for Climate Action: International Conference Fires Up Partnership Between Cities and Artists

The power of the arts to inspire, build awareness and catalyse climate action in cities and beyond is taking centre stage at a gathering of some 50 experts meeting this week at Salzburg Global Seminar, Austria.

Entitled The Art of Resilience: Creativity, Courage, Renewal, the meeting builds on a growing wave of collaboration between urban centres and the arts to find new ways of engaging people and communities on some of the major challenges of the 21st Century.

Salzburg Global's Program Director for Culture and the Arts Susanna Seidl-Fox says, “In times such as ours - fraught with conflict, crisis, and stress - our societies and our planet must prove their resilience more than ever before. This session looks to the arts and to the cultural sector as a source of much-need creativity, courage, and renewal, to help us respond to the shocks that threaten the very fabric of our communities, our natural surroundings, our cultural heritage, and our futures.”

Convened by Julie’s Bicycle, participants will build on Salzburg Global’s 2016 session, Beyond Green: The Arts as a Catalyst for Sustainability to propose breakthrough collaborations across sectors. Alison Tickell, founder of Julie’s Bicycle, who work with the art and cultural industries to develop new thinking on sustainability challenges, adds: “The creative and cultural communities across the globe are well positioned to contribute significantly to the climate change and sustainability transition—not least because they can illuminate new ideas and shape values.”

“Indeed, keeping a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and meeting the aims of the Paris Climate Change Agreement will be far more likely if political and civic will is aligned with cultural and creative dynamism,” she added.

The Salzburg meeting, which is also attended by a representative from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a coalition of 90 megacities working together to tackle climate change, aims to produce a road map of cultural and artistic engagement to be presented to governments gathering at the next UN climate conference in Bonn, Germany in November 2017.

Key figures in Salzburg this week include Rosemary Mangope, Chief Executive Officer of the South African Arts Council; Erwin Maas, the New York-based theatre director and Artistic Director of the International Society for Performing Arts; campaigner and member of the UK House of Lords, Baroness Lola Young, and Anna Beech, representing the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group.

Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson and Director of Communications and outreach at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said he was delighted to take part and explore the power of the arts to catalyze change.

“Climate action including building more resilient cities will be a defining effort of humanity in the 21st Century. Science, economics and politics will be crucial but so will new thinking and new ways of expressing the challenges and opportunities to both leaders and the public—something arts and culture can do in fresh and fundamental ways,” he said.

Mr Nuttall will outline how the UNFCCC has worked with artists to provide new insights into climate change and climate action including through Save the World, a festival organized by Theatre Bonn which for three years has brought film makers; poets; musicians and other artists together with United Nation’s experts; NGOs and schools.

Other partnerships have included 1 Heart 1 Tree a unique project that beamed virtual trees onto the Eiffel Tower during the UN climate change conference in Paris 2015 while generating funds to plant real ones across 5 Continents.

The project, the brainchild of Paris-based artist Naziha Mestaoui, developed a unique smart phone App that detected a person’s heartbeat as they chose their tree. It meant that each virtual tree grown on the tower, using real-time, 3-D mapping in order to generate a virtual forest nightly, was personal to each supporter.

“What started off as an heroic dream and vision of one determined artist became a signature, son illuminare, cultural event lighting up an iconic building with growing trees and messages of hope witnessed by the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon; the French actress Marion Cotillard; indigenous peoples; the people of Paris and delegates across the globe,” said Mr Nuttall.

See more information on "The Art of Resilience - Creativity, Courage and Renewal" by the Salzburg Global Seminar.

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