The Art World

Clean air day – 15 June: Breathing life into art

On 15 June each year, the world comes together to celebrate Clean Air Day, a pivotal event aimed at raising awareness about air pollution and advocating for actions to improve air quality. While the primary focus is on health and environmental benefits, art has also emerged as a significant player in this global movement. Artists around the world are using their talents to highlight the urgency of clean air, creating works that inspire change and reflect the beauty of a pollution-free environment.

The intersection of art and environment

Art has always been a reflection of society’s values, struggles, and aspirations. In recent years, environmental issues, particularly air quality, have become central themes for many contemporary artists. By leveraging their creativity, artists can communicate the importance of clean air in ways that resonate deeply with the public, transcending the limitations of scientific data and political rhetoric.

One poignant example is the work of environmental artist Olafur Eliasson. Known for his large-scale installations that explore the relationship between humans and nature, Eliasson has created projects that directly address air pollution. His installation "The Weather Project" at Tate Modern in London recreated a glowing sun, enveloping visitors in a haze, prompting reflections on climate and air quality.

Harlequin TrioHarlequin Trio. Judy Sharpe

Art installations as advocacy

Art installations often serve as powerful advocacy tools, bringing abstract environmental issues into tangible experiences. On Clean Air Day, cities around the world host art exhibitions and public installations to raise awareness about air pollution. In 2021, the city of Birmingham in the UK unveiled a giant pair of lungs made from living plants, which visibly changed color in response to the air quality. This interactive sculpture not only captured the public's imagination but also educated onlookers about the immediate effects of air pollution.

Artists leading by example

Many artists are not just highlighting the problems but also advocating for solutions. The "Smog Free Project" by Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde is a prime example. This project includes a smog-free tower that cleans the surrounding air, and the collected smog particles are compressed into jewelry, transforming pollution into something beautiful and thought-provoking. Roosegaarde's work demonstrates how artistic innovation can contribute to practical solutions for air quality issues.

Collaborative efforts for clean air

Clean Air Day also fosters collaborations between artists, environmentalists, and communities. Murals and street art projects are common, often created in collaboration with local residents to reflect communal experiences and hopes for cleaner air. In cities like Los Angeles and Delhi, where air pollution is a pressing issue, these community-driven art projects serve as both a canvas for expression and a call to action.

For instance, the "Breathe" project in Glasgow involved local artists and schoolchildren creating air quality sensors disguised as birdhouses. These birdhouses were installed across the city, collecting data while simultaneously beautifying urban spaces and engaging the community in discussions about air pollution.

The role of digital art

In the digital age, artists are also turning to technology to address air quality. Digital installations and virtual reality experiences allow people to visualize the impacts of air pollution and understand the importance of clean air. These digital artworks can reach a global audience, transcending geographic boundaries and making the message of Clean Air Day more accessible than ever before.

The future of art in the clean air movement

As the world continues to grapple with air pollution, the role of art in this movement will likely expand. Artists will keep pushing boundaries, using their unique perspectives to challenge complacency and inspire change. Clean Air Day serves as a reminder of the power of creativity in addressing one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.

By intertwining art with advocacy, Clean Air Day not only promotes a healthier environment but also enriches our cultural landscape. It encourages us to imagine a world where clean air is a given, not a luxury, and inspires us to take the necessary steps to make that vision a reality.