Ring! Ring! How would Sierra Club like to host a Green Conscience workshop in Ottawa?

by Franke James

Franke James green conscience workshop at Sierra Club Canada
students cutting magazines to create their green conscience artwork, photo by Franke James
It all started with a phone call.

My “Banned on the Hill” artshow was opening in Ottawa and I needed help on the ground… I spotted a post by John Bennett, the Director of Sierra Club Canada, and thought John might have some advice for me on organizing events in Ottawa.

John Bennett, Director Sierra Club Canada So, I picked up the phone and introduced myself, detailed the government’s interference — and told him how I was creatively fighting back by mounting a protest artshow in Ottawa right around the corner from the Parliament Buildings…

True to his activist roots, John Bennett sprang into action. (Which was amazing!) Within hours of my phone call, he’d put Sierra Club interns to work helping me organize local events for my visit — which was only a few weeks away. By the time my show rolled around, our small team had arranged an impressive agenda: a Green Conscience workshop, a talk at the University of Ottawa, a Walking Tour of my “banned art”, and a pay-your-own dinner with local environmentalists — which included Member of Parliament, Elizabeth May, the Leader of the Green Party of Canada.

I marvelled at my good fortune that Sierra Club would step forward with such gusto. But now that I’ve met John Bennett in person, it makes perfect sense. My project was a good fit for Sierra Club because their mandate is all about helping individual citizens at a grassroots level. I never appreciated that before! John told me,

“All environmental issues are local just as all politics are local. It was individuals raising the alarm about polluted lakes and rivers or demanding protection for a park in their neighbourhood who created the environmental movement. Facing global issues like climate change has changed the nature of activism for most environmental organizations leaving little room to help local groups and individuals. Sierra Club Canada is grassroots, member based and run by volunteers. It hasn’t forgotten where it came from so it lends a hand wherever and whenever it can.”

As it turns out, I could have been calling Sierra Club that day because I wanted help about ANY local environmental issue. That’s what differentiates them from other environmental groups. Their niche is helping individuals and groups of people take action at a local level. (Psst… If you need help for an environmental issue, or want to join — here’s the number to call: (613) 291-6888 Sierra Club Canada.)

Laura's green conscience artwork about collecting stuff, photo by Franke JamesSo, let me show you some of the artworks that were created at the workshop. I started by explaining my Six Tools for Climate Change Art. The tools are intended to help anyone express themselves visually (even the most analytical “I-can’t-draw-a-straight-line” kind of person). Many people today are anxious about climate change and feel powerless. Making art can help you express your concerns — and share your ideas with friends, family — and possibly even a much wider circle.

I first developed the Six Tools for a presentation at the McMichael Art Gallery in 2007. Here’s what I wrote back then (and recent events have shown it to be truer than I ever imagined!),

“Artists can make a difference in the world. Think of this: If any one of us stands up and tells a group an idea we have, it may spread — or it may disappear into the ether. A far more effective way to make an idea spread is to give it ‘tangible form’. By creating climate change art our influence can stretch far beyond the boundaries of our personal circle. If others find our work to be moving they will share it with others, until our voice is amplified and our message reaches millions around the world. Unlike the scientist, we artists have the freedom to weave facts, opinions, thoughts, emotion and color all together. We can instill passion and motivate change. That is our palette.”

Take a look below at the students Green Conscience artwork. (And don’t miss the short videos where you can hear them describe their artwork themselves.)

And then think about yourself — “What’s bothering your green conscience?”

Green Conscience Workshop: Sierra Club Canada

My green conscience is bothered by…

All the stuff I buy!

My green conscience is bothered by…

Me leaving the lights on!

Iffat's green conscience artwork about conservation starting at home, photo by Franke James

My green conscience is bothered by…

My love of travel!

Fiona's 3D green conscience artwork about air travel, photo by Franke James

My green conscience is bothered by…

My wasted food!

Annie's green conscience artwork about food in the fridge, photo by Franke James

My green conscience is bothered by…

My eating meat!

Traffic light green conscience artwork about eating meat, photo by Franke James

My green conscience is bothered by…

My love of magazines!

3 Responses: 2 Comments and One Tweet

  • Laura says:

    Your workshop was an awesome experience! It really made me re-examine my bad eco-habits and I realized that I don’t have to be an artist to express an environmental message through visual communication. Thanks, Franke!

  • Fiona says:

    Love the blog post Franke! Thank you so much for sharing your Six Tools for Climate Change Art. It helped me, a complete non-artist, create a piece of work that I am proud of! It also gave me various ideas for future green conscience artwork. We have kept the posters and put them up in our office to remind us of our green conscience everyday. Thanks!

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