Engaging Across Disciplines: Dynamic Relationships with the Arts

In a recent Artsy article, “What’s Driving Nonprofits into the Art World’s Arms,” a piece that points to potentials for cross-sector philanthropy, Anna Louie Sussman tackles how the historic link between arts communities and the nonprofit sector have been solidifying as more people, including artists, seek political engagement following the 2016 presidential election.

There is a hunger within other fields to engage with the arts, recognizing the potential for impact and the ability to communicate in myriad, visually clear ways. As an example of this cross-disciplinary approach, Sussman points to unlikely partnerships between artists and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“One of the really hard things about climate change is that people struggle to imagine it, and imagine what it looks like,” said Elizabeth Corr, director of art partnerships at NRDC. “Artists and art have the incredible ability to break down that barrier...That allows the public to interact in a very active way, to ask questions, to have emotive responses, to feel.” The NRDC’s 2017 Special Exhibition at Expo Chicago, Sussman discusses, is a strong articulation of this trend:

NRDC’s booth at Expo Chicago is one example of the nonprofit sector’s growing engagement with the art community, as nonprofit organizations seek to harness the alignment between their causes and the liberal-leaning artists, dealers, and art audiences to raise awareness among new demographics and bring in much-needed funds.

Additionally, back in 2013, a piece by Jenny Holzer was shown by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its first Expo Chicago Special Exhibition. And, Dedrea Gray, co-chair emerita of HRW’s Chicago Committee, was inspired to have HRW participate after seeing NRDC’s inaugural booth, an environmentally oriented exhibit designed by Maya Lin in 2012.

Even though there is a long history of collaboration between art and political movements, some are increasingly starting to recognize this as a potential avenue for their organizations' needs.

Kristen Stegemoeller, one of the program directors of Sexy Beast, an organization that fundraises for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, said: “So many of these artists and designers we’re working with are very (…) politically engaged personally, but there are limited outlets to use their talent and skills to directly benefit causes they personally care about. We’re trying to thread the needle for them.”

Read the full article in Artsy.

Image: Pixabay, StockSnap