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A Green Art Manifesto

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[For more than a decade my partner and I have sold our green art on the streets of New York City. While we're battling the frigid December winds in Union Square Park this holiday season, the climate protection movement is out in force on the streets of Copenhagen. In solidarity, we've drafted a Green Art Manifesto, laying out the philosophy and practice of the emerging green arts movement.]

Quietly, over the last decade, a new green arts movement has begun to take shape.

We see ourselves representing a revival of the 1930's arts and crafts movement, and like those dedicated artists before us, we create functional art -- practical tools transformed into enduring aesthetic objects -- that is handcrafted and affordable. You've seen us on the streets and farmers markets of New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta, selling our dresses sewn from recycled umbrellas and solar clocks milled from reclaimed wine tanks. What was our predecessors' Depression Art is now our Recession Art.

As green artists we regard the rarefied "high" arts as long lost to the hollow galleries of commerce targeting only elites. We find diminishing inspiration in the 90 year reign of conceptual art, marked by its rejection of technical prowess, craftmanship, and social use. A movement sprung from Duchamp's brilliance now wallows in the production lines of Koons and Hirst commissioning porcelain Michael Jackson sculptures never touched by the artist. For our generation, these precious efforts withered and died decades ago.

From the ashes of the old, our generation feels a fresh breeze animating our nascent green arts movement. We seek to blur the lines between craft and modern art, building pieces on the conceptual foundations of modernism -- process, performance, and politics -- while consciously limiting ourselves to sustainable, organic and recycled materials.

We believe our green art must be deliberately interactive and communal. What we forge in our studios is not where art ends and commerce begins, but instead, is the budding of an ecosystem of interactivity between the art, the artist and the people. Green art is not the inert object we produce, but rather the interaction sparked by the object -- the discussions, ideas, new ways of seeing and thinking, the social exchange and connectivity.

To nurture interactivity we choose only to sell outside on the streets and in the parks, where we animate what we make; craft narratives around our pieces to be carried back to people's homes, people's lives. Our art is buttressed by the history of our recycled materials; by the sparks of conversations with customers; by supporters returning week after week to talk, to share, and carry home our work. As green artists, we tether our art -- and our lives -- to local community, driven by the desire to counter the modern ailments of alienation, loneliness, and fear.

Our art is political. We refuse to destroy the planet to make a living. We salvage our materials, often for free. We sell only what we make with our own hands. As green artists we refuse to wholesale or outsource production to global sweatshops to meet demand. We reject the cult of individual artistic genius. Our art is collaborative and crowd-sourced, drawing ideas from both conversations with non-artists on the street and our green peers. Through a decade of experimentation we have discovered that beauty emerges from collaboration, not vulgar individualism.

We are where we want to be: we don't dream of riches or selling in galleries -- for us, to survive selling our interactive green art and living free, self-directed lives rooted in community is the definition of "making it" as a green artist.

And we are more than a mere community of artists. We envision ourselves as members of a growing public sphere and cultural economy supporting those that grow or make what they sell. We are a generation of organic farmers, cooks, and beekeepers; we are bike mechanics and green carpenters; we are musicians, journalists and poets; we are environmental and social justice activists; we are artists.

We are bound by the simple desire to make the world a better and more beautiful place.

[Drafted with Nicola Armster]