No matter what species or habitat we’re trying to save, any conservation effort we embark upon at Global Wildlife Conservation is ultimately about people. To raise funds, create protected areas and develop communitywide programs, we must first inspire people to care about saving the species and habitats that most need our help.
While statistics about nature may make us think, it is our experiences with nature that make us care. However, most people will never visit the world’s most remote places or come face-to-face with its most endangered species. That’s why art is a fantastic tool for connecting people to nature and their instincts to care for it. Whether through realistic depictions of nature or more abstract themes, art touches people’s emotions and reaches them on a visceral level.
We are harnessing the power of art in a big way through an exciting new partnership with Christie’s, the world’s leading art business. On September 27 2018, Christie’s will commence an auction featuring more than 20 works from leading contemporary artists. The proceeds will enable GWC to purchase and preserve land from one of the last unprotected cloud forests in the Americas. The Sheth Sangreal Foundation, led by GWC Board Chair Brian Sheth, will join in matching the proceeds from each auction lot. With these funds, we hope to create a protected area approximately three times the size of Manhattan.
Cloud forests, which grow across much of the tropics where the mountains tower above 1,000 meters, are one of our planet’s most imperiled habitats. These “sky sponges” support a diversity of tropical plant and animal life, as well as indigenous communities, by absorbing mist from fog and then slowly and steadily releasing the water to the ground below. This keeps the area’s waterways flowing—and crops growing—regardless of seasonal rainfall. Cloud forests also clean polluted air, buffer communities from increasingly severe storms and may harbor the ingredients for many medical breakthroughs.
The Christie’s benefit came about through our relationship with Haley Mellin, an artist and conservationist whose connections in both worlds run deep. Haley first learned about GWC through her love of Three Twins Ice Cream, with whom we sponsor an “Ice Cream for Acres” program that protects land for every pint sold.
“Conservation and art are both founded on the ideas of legacy and permanence,” Mellin said. “By transforming works of art into physical acres of conserved tropical forest, this benefit makes the relationship between art and conservation tangible.” The artworks were graciously donated by artists and collectors who recognize the need to conserve our forests and want to make a lasting impact.
Highlights include Mirror (Pale Tangerine to Dark Purple) from British artist Anish Kapoor, well-known in the United States for creating “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park. This pioneering work incorporates geometry with reflection, providing the viewer with an alternative to the flat impression of the Earth. Rashid Johnson’s Untitled Escape Collage belongs to a group of works recording the artist’s attempt to reconcile his African American experience with visions of future paradise. Robert Long’s Study for Flat Top Iceberg is hauntingly emblematic of climate change. And five works from the Haas Brothers, Taz-Been & Cheetah Hayworth & La Brea Brad Pitt & Quasidodo & Fruit Stripe, present the fanciful, exaggerated animal pelts of extinct species: a Dodo Bird, Woolly Mammoth, Tasmanian Tiger, Giant Cheetah, and long-lost subspecies of zebra, the Quagga.
All of the works invite the viewer to challenge their assumptions and examine the relationship between humans and the environment in new ways.
“The environmental movement was inspired by the first picture of Earth taken from space,” said Robin Moore, GWC’s communications director and an award-winning conservation photographer. “It got people to think about our one shared home. Our modern lifestyle can make us think we’re separate from nature, but art is a powerful reminder of our deep, innate connection to nature—we are evolved from it and continue to be part of it.”
As we saw with our 2017 Lost Species campaign featuring art from Alexis Rockman, visual storytelling drives excellent awareness and results.
“People who love art also love nature. The value systems are the same,” Moore said.
Even if you’re not an art collector, you can support cloud forest conservation. A donation of $50 will buy half an acre, and any amount will help. Donate today!
(Top cloud forest image by Chris Ford)