Jake Lever

How can art generate hope?

“Creativity  is inherently a spiritual technology, and a hopeful posture, to align oneself as a creative is to align oneself with hope as a practice and claim that as an identity.”     

Hillary McBride

I was recently invited by Professor Emma Mawdsley from Cambridge University to contribute a presentation to a new course called Geographies of Hope for final year undergraduate students in Geography.  The course invites practitioners from diverse disciplines (the arts, architecture, sustainability etc) to share stories of hope so that students are equipped to envisage a positive future in the face of the climate crisis, growing inequality etc. It stems from a belief that it is the responsibility of educators to signpost students to sources of hope in a world that can feel bleak, overwhelming and hopeless. 

I shared my story of working with the archetype of the boat, highlighting the sense of loss and vulnerability in an empty vessel alongside the sense of possibility, potential and hope that is embodied within it. In particular I focussed upon Do the Little Things, the pandemic project I co-ordinated that enabled people to send tiny gilded boats as symbols of love, affection and solidarity.  Finally, I concluded by summarising the ways that the arts, in a broader sense, can serve as catalysts for hope; 

  • Remembering the past - art can help us to recall the past, including the movements, pioneers and shifts in consciousness that speak to our present.
  • Connecting human to human - seeing our common, shared human experience expressed in works of art breaks down isolation and fosters connection and solidarity.
  • Transforming at heart level - art creates empathy between people and moves people in the heart and guts where real transformation takes place.
  • Imagining and communicating new possibilities - artists imagine alternative futures, different ways of of living with each other that open up possibilities and challenge the status quo.

I ended by inviting each student to take away a newly printed image, a tiny etching based upon my current interest in webs, to use as a starting point for a conversation with someone and to connect around what hope means to them.

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