Water Hub Blog

Round up: 4 artists and organizers inspiring the water and climate movement

Art is transformative. It has the incredible power to connect and inspire! From Jay-Z’s documentary about the water crisis in Angola to artist Big Sean Raising $100,000 to Fight the ongoing Flint Water Crisis and featuring the Flint Chosen Choir on his song titled ‘Bigger Than Me‘ (a personal fav!) to Pitbull working with the United Nations to publicize water issues, we SEE clearly the transformative power of weaving climate challenges into artistic expression.

Art is power. We use art to stimulate emotion and create! Inevitably this creative force can induce long-term changes in cognition, emotion, and behavior for audiences. However, leveraging arts and culture is an underutilized tool in movement work, but we know its power and potential toward creating a shared vision of a better future.

“The intersection of the community­ centered arts and culture and the equitable development movements—and the policies to secure and support that intersection—can help deliver just and fair inclusion for all.”

Creating Change through Arts, Culture, and Equitable Development: A Policy and Practice Primer; PolicyLink

This is what makes art a tangible force. That’s why we are so grateful that more artists are responding to climate challenges and making the needs of our communities heard, seen and felt. This energy inspired our upcoming artist panel on April 28, In the Flow: Arts and Culture Practices for the Water Movement. Make sure to register! Our goal is to offer real-life examples of arts in action and give tips on how to engage artists in their work. Join us to hear from the following four artists and organizers whose work will give light to how to work equitably with creators and inspire change.

Ashley Fairbanks: Creative Director/Narrative Strategist, 100% Campaign & Honor the Earth

“Unifying art and cultural practices with organizing work is critical to moving people out of a colonized worldview—art allows us to expand people’s notions of possibility and move them to a world that is more just, more sustainable, and more loving.”

Ashley Fairbanks is currently the creative director for the 100% Campaign, a coalition working to transition Minnesota to a sustainable future, and does narrative and digital work for Honor The Earth and other clients. For over two decades, Ashley has worked on issue and electoral campaigns at every level, including as Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Communications Director and Creative Director for Julian Castro’s campaign for President. She’s done branding for over 70 campaigns, and loves to marry narrative strategy with art and design that advances our fight for a more just and collaborative world.

Look forward to Ashley sharing more about her experience growing up on the White Earth Reservation, her visit to COP26 last year, and how she sees art and culture as essential tools for connecting hearts to minds and influencing social change.

Keep up with Ashley on Twitter @ziibiing!

Jeannine Kayembe Oro, Senior Program Manager of Climate Justice, The Center for Cultural Power

Head shot of Jeanine Kayembe Oro

Jeannine Kayembe Oro is the Senior Program Manager of Climate Justice at The Center for Cultural Power, a national organization investing in artists and storytellers as agents of positive social change. Oro is an infinite media artist ranging from sound design to sustainable homestead building. Coming from a Filipino and Congolese background, they are committed to doing Black and Asian solidarity work through cultural production. As Oro 5, they explore the intersection of music, climate justice, and BIPOC culture, composing a range of music using blues, soul, and hip hop mixed with nature-based field sound.

Oro 5’s first released EP entitled “EP.A” (environmental protection ancestral) can be listened to on all music streaming platforms, in the meantime, just press play below!

Follow @_oro5_ for music and art, and follow @rugggedqueer for QTBIPOC camping & homesteading!

Marcus Trujillo: Graphic Designer, Office of Laguna Learning Laguna Department of Education

“This work is meaningful to me because I believe that change and sustainability begin with collaborative efforts done by organizers, educators, and leaders within the movement.”

Marcus Trujillo is a tribal member with the Pueblo of Laguna in affiliation with the Village of Paraje. Marcus graduated from the University of New Mexico with a BA in Humanities. With a background in traditional art, he began freelance designing with the vision to give back through creative expression.

Merging design with passions for social and environmental justice, Marcus uses creative skills to embody solidarity with Indigenous communities and communities of color from working as the Graphic Designer for the Office of Laguna Learning in Laguna Pueblo to working in graphic design for Indigenous Educators and KCLC Montessori Services. He is also the former Communications Designer for Pueblo Action Alliance.  

You can look forward to Marcus sharing some of his work including designs for #WaterBack, a campaign he worked on for Pueblo Action Alliance about reimagining our relationship to water and the systems that manage it through an Indigenous feminist lens. He’ll also speak about how water flows throughout his art and its significance to his People.

Follow Marcus on Instagram and get to know his work at @haatzeedesigns.

Axel Santana: Associate, PolicyLink 

“Art not only supports social change but creates change by inspiring new ways of thinking and allowing people to build equitable and just worlds together that don’t yet exist.”

Axel Santana leads the transportation equity work and supports the Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus at PolicyLink. His work involves research, writing, and advocacy around mobility justice, climate justice, and the intersections of arts, culture, and the various equity issues impacting communities of color in California and beyond. In his years at PolicyLink, he has helped convene advocates from across the country, collaborated with equity leaders on various initiatives, authored blog posts, and developed tools –– all in service of empowering and lifting the voices of our most vulnerable communities.

Prior to PolicyLink, Axel was focused on international development, spending time in Kenya and El Salvador doing reproductive health advocacy and public space rehabilitation, respectively, before ending up in the Bay Area working with an agency supporting asylum seekers with legal assistance. 

To learn more about what we’ll be unpacking, check out this curriculum Axel helped develop its artists, Benny Starr, Nana Fofie Bashir, and Mika Gadsen. He’ll also be offing insights on why it’s important for artists to be at the table for solutions and how organizations can better partner with them as leaders and creators, not entertainers.

Register today to get into the movement!

Feeling inspired? Yea, we are too! So join us on Thursday, April 28 @ 12:30 pm PT/3:30 pm ET for our event, In the Flow: Arts and Culture Practices for the Water Movement.

See you there!

The Water Hub