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Conservation art – the art of creating awareness

Just to be clear, this article looks at artists and companies that have dedicated themselves to the cause of animal conservation. We won’t be discussing the highly skilled practice that is art conservation.

Ok, now that’s cleared up – let’s look at some wonderful artists, companies and foundations which have made it their mission to remind us we need to learn to share this planet of ours with everything else that lives on it.

According to www.biologicaldiversity.org, ‘natural’ extinction occurs at around one to five species each year. However – the current figure is more like 1,000 to 10,000 times greater than that. As we continue to dig up and cut down, in the name of progress, these already scary numbers could easily increase. In response to these alarming stats, companies and artists are trying to create awareness in the hope for change.

Artists for Conservation

One such company, the aptly titled www.artistsforconservation.org, is a Canadian non-profit organisation whose vision and goal is quite clear:

“To lead a global artistic movement that inspires individuals and organisations to preserve and sustain our natural heritage by uniting the talent and passion of the world’s most gifted nature artists.”

With over 500 artists in 30 countries, Artists for Conservation continues to spread its message through exhibitions, expeditions, festivals and online initiatives.

Their latest endeavour, ‘Silent Skies’, involved over 160 artists from 15 countries. It resulted in a 24ft x 50ft mural showcasing 678 species of birds which are at risk of extinction.

The beautiful 'Silent Skies' mural by www.artistsforconservation.org showcasing 678 species of birds on the verge of extinction
The beautiful ‘Silent Skies’ mural by www.artistsforconservation.org

The finished mural, plus vinyl and printed versions, are set to go on tour right through until 2022. We wonder how many of those species will be extinct by the time the tour finishes?

David Shepherd

For 60 years, David Shepherd dedicated his life to wildlife art and raising funds to help protect endangered animals. In 1984 he set up the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) to assist in the raising of these funds. To date, DSWF has given away more than £8,000,000 to projects around the world.

Shepherd’s drive and commitment to this cause was triggered in around 1960, when confronted by 255 dead zebras at a poisoned water hole in Tanzania. From that point he continued to produce stunning paintings whilst raising awareness of the tragedies that were occurring around the world.

Stunning painting of elephants by David Shepherd entitled 'The Ivory Is Theirs'.
‘The Ivory Is Theirs’ by David Shepherd

His work has been collected by galleries, museums and celebrities including David Bowie and Sir Paul McCartney.

The foundation, since Shepherd’s passing in 2017, continues to honour his legacy. It raises funds for elephants, rhinos, tigers, snow leopards, lions, painted dogs, pangolins, leopards and chimpanzees.

Louis Masai Michel

It’s not just foundations, charities and organisations that are busy raising awareness, there are lone artists who are also spreading the message. Michel is one of those talented artists.

Using the street as his canvas, UK artist Louis Masai Michel has been travelling the world leaving his beautiful messages.

In 2015 he began the campaign ‘#savethebees’, and later then teamed up with a group of filmmakers for an art project entitled ‘The Art of Beeing’. Michel admits that his work alone isn’t going to save the planet, but what he hopes is that viewers of his work will hopefully think about their relationship with the planet and its inhabitants.

Louis Masai Michel working on his 'save the bees' project
Louis Masai Michel working on his ‘save the bees’ project

A solo show of Michel’s work will be opening at The Crypt Gallery in London from 25th-27th May. The show, titled ‘Missing’, is dedicated to raising awareness of many endangered species through Michel’s distinct colourful patchwork style.

The time to act is now

Whether you believe we are on the verge of a mass extinction or not, there is no getting away from the fact many species are disappearing from our planet at a frightening rate. Every year more and more are added to the endangered species list, and scientists worry that we will only wake up to the scale of the problem when it’s too late.

We love the foundations and artists who have taken their passion and skills to create awareness, so that maybe, just maybe, people may begin to understand some of the issues and make changes to help the environment. To borrow Tesco’s slogan…. ‘every little helps’.

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