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What's art got to do with poverty?
Stand Up is a global mobilization to end poverty and inequality and to raise awareness for the Millennium Development Goals. The ongoing hunger crisis and economic downturn brings new challenges to progress on achieving these goals. Every day, 50,000 people die as a result of extreme poverty and the gap between rich and poor people is increasing. Nearly half the world’s population live in poverty, 70% are women. We have the power to change this.
Here in Portland, Oregon we are using art as a form of advocacy to mobilize and educate our community about the realities of hunger in the developing world. Portland State University students have been rallied together by one passionate student, Carrie Stiles, who believes people can and must make a difference. The event she is directing has pulled together politicians, anti-hunger advocates, global poverty experts and artists. Artists are not usually the main attraction at a hunger awareness event, but Carrie is one of those people who can think outside the box.
Who better can tell a visual or auditory story through pictures, dance or music that connects us to our compassion but artists? Artists live in the heart often more than the mind. Art is a compelling form of advocacy that has been used throughout the ages. Think of the wood engravings of Fritz Eichenberg during the depression that portrayed the long soup lines (see above image). Eichenberg used his gift to call for peace and justice in this world throughout his life.
Last Friday, the PSU Stand Up artists gathered together in a local studio and created a web of advocacy by passing around a ball of yarn. We looked at how advocating for one issue is connected to another. For example advocating for orphans was connected to nearly every MDG. Without help to care for themselves, orphans are connected to extreme poverty and often malnourished. Further, lack of a proper education for an orphan in the developing world (where few get an education with meager government funds to invest in schools) limits their resources later in life. Many orphans also find themselves in their precarious situation in areas like Sub-Sahara Africa because they lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. The list can go on and on.
As we have lately seen, our world economies are interconnected. Our world food system is also interconnected. Our simple exercise in passing a ball of yarn showed us the connections between each of the Millennium Development Goals. The root causes of global poverty are complex, but the MDGs are a comprehensive road map to at least cut extreme hunger in half by the year 2015. We just need the political will to follow the path. I’m excited to see what our artists will come up with outside the usual box of advocacy on Friday.
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