“UNLEARNING INTOLERANCE: Art Changing Attitudes Towards the Environment”
Séminaire et exposition d’art au siège des Nations Unies à New York, Etats-Unis, 2008


Natural World Museum; United Nations Seminar to Focus on Art as a Vehicle for Changing Attitudes Toward the Environment

13 May 2008

“Art Changing Attitudes toward the Environment” is the sixth seminar in the Unlearning Intolerance Seminar Series being organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), to be held at United Nations Headquarters on 8 May 2008 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Seminar will focus on the issue of humankind’s intolerance of the needs of our earth and the influence of art on the attitudinal and behavioral changes that must be made in order to protect our environment (see also Natural World Museum).

Celebrity guest, model and environmental activist Christie Brinkley will make special remarks and join the panel that focuses on art, action and human security.

Expressing her enthusiasm for art and her concern for the environment, she says, “Artists help open our eyes and hopefully our hearts to see creation’s natural beauty, to live seeking harmony, and to honor the sacred web of life in our actions.”

The forum is organized by UN DPI in cooperation with the Natural World Museum (NWM) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joint initiative — Art for the Environment. This ongoing initiative is designed to utilize the universal language of art as a catalyst to unite people in action and thought and to empower individuals, communities, and leaders to focus on environmental values across social, economic, and political realms.

The seminar will help to keep the spotlight on the issue of climate change which has been a top priority of the United Nations and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. It will raise awareness of challenges of climate change and the environment from a different and unique perspective of artists and through their paintings, photography and sculpture. The one-day seminar will be opened by Kiyotaka Akasaka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information who will chair the panel discussion: “Confronting Environmental Intolerance: Art, Action, and Human Security”. The theme of the second panel discussion is: “Art for Change: Vehicles for Environmental Action”.

Panellists will include artists representing the six global regions, whose work focuses on the environment and earth’s changing needs: Noor Al-Bastaki, El Anatsui, Subhankar Banerjee, Catherine Chalmers, Ichi Ikeda, Philippe Pastor and Cecilia Paredes. The artists’ creations range from photography depicting the cultural and ecological diversity in the Arctic region, to burned tree sculptures, to art in which water is the central theme, to hangings of woven debris of consumerism.

“The beauty of art is that it makes us curious, which leads to conversation and engagement, which is just one step away from ‘action.’ It is in this context that art is a powerful agent of change to unlearn many manifestations of intolerance, and to help preserve this planet we call home,” says artist Subhankar Banerjee.

The environmental experts on the panel will be led by distinguished former diplomat Ahmed Djoghlaf, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity who will give the keynote address. “There is an umbilical link between culture and nature and between cultural diversity and biological diversity. The unprecedented loss of biodiversity is contributing to eroding the diversity of culture. Responding to the biodiversity challenges will enhance the cultural, civilisational identity of human beings and strengthen their relation with Mother Nature”, says Mr. Djoghlaf. The Deputy Director of the UNEP Regional office for North America, Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox and Michael Polsky, a pioneer in wind and thermal generating facilities are two other experts featuring on the panels.

An exhibit, created in conjunction with the seminar and featuring the works of the seven artists will be open to the public from 2 – 31 May at United Nations Headquarters in New York. It will be presented as a part of the global NWM/UNEP Art for the Environment initiative, in collaboration with the UN Department of Public Information. Curated by Randy Jayne Rosenberg, the contemporary art exhibit aims to engage the public in environmental awareness and action. “This seminar and exhibition demonstrates that the fusion of art and environment is a powerful synergistic tool for positive social change,” states Mia Hanak, the Founding Executive Director of the Natural World Museum.

The Unlearning Intolerance Seminar Series was initiated by the Department of Public Information in 2004. The series aims to examine manifestations of intolerance as well as explore means to promote respect and understanding among peoples. As its name suggests, the “Unlearning Intolerance” series offers opportunities to discuss how intolerance, wherever it exists and for whatever reason, can be “unlearned” through education, inclusion and example.