Art for Social Change

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve been hearing a lot about collaborative art projects, including some that are happening right now in Boston (the location of one of IISC’s two offices). So wanted to write about one amazing project happening right now. Thanks to my neighbor Judith Leemann, I heard about a collaborative art project Mel Chin and Operation Paydirt have been creating to make safe lead-contaminated soil in the US.

Upon hearing that 86,000 properties in New Orleans are estimated to have unsafe lead contamination – and at least 30% of inner city children are affected with lead poisoning, Mel Chin started working. He learned that it would take $300 million to remediate the soil in New Orleans. Thinking he couldn’t raise that kind of money, he decided to make $300 million through a collaborative art project called Fundred, take it to the US Congress and ask for funding to remediate the soil. And so he has created Fundred, through which Operation Paydirt created blank templates for Fundred dollar bills. People are designing their own Fundred Dollar Bills, mailing them to Collection Centers to be counted and securely held – and they are then being taken by a special armored car to Congress, who is being asked to do an even exchange for funding to remediate the soil in New Orleans.


So here we go – an amazing, network approach to social change, creating a baseline tool (the Fundred Template), and allowing everyone to express themselves in their own way, as they see fit – distributed leadership! Schools are involved (and school children are learning about lead contamination, activism and New Orleans in the process). And so are many others. And what comes out of it? Along with learning and activism, a deep sense of joy in creation – making your own money instead of asking someone else for it.

Another example of an individual hearing about a problem and coming up with a creative and joyful way to engage people and make a difference. What other projects like this have you heard about?

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