Spring into Action: How Art Inspires You

Art inspires people to engage in issues—the history of art and activism go hand-in-hand.

Spring into Action: How Art Inspires You

Drawing by Mary Brossman

When we design campaign strategies we make every effort to incorporate art into our work. We ask ourselves, “Would a huge mass of people marching with cardboard cutouts of salmon stop you in your tracks? Would a 90-minute musical about oil-by-rail call you to action? Would a drawing contest get you pumped up about Hanford cleanup?” The answer: yes!

Art opens our minds and delivers fresh perspectives about important issues outside our day-to-day lives. Maybe it’s the color, or the music, or perhaps the simplicity, but something happens in our hearts—we feel more open and less defensive looking at a painting than we might feel while reading a 900-page environmental report.

Columbia Riverkeeper works with artists across many mediums. Here are some recent examples of visual art and activism working together to inspire change.
Art by Hampton Rodriguez
Painting by Hampton Rodríguez

Hampton Rodríguez, a visual artist from the Dominican Republic currently based in Portland, OR, is interested in social justice and the environment. Hampton created a painting of industrial pollution inspired by Hanford. He shared, “This piece was created thinking of the hard journey of the salmon and the Columbia River by the pollution created by corporations and Hanford.”

Elaine Harvey
Elaine Harvey by Carmen Selam

Carmen Selam, a multidisciplinary artist born and raised on the Yakama Indian Reservation, highlighted important cultural and religious resources that would be destroyed by the Goldendale Pumped Storage Development. "My art is a reflection of living in contemporary society as a queer Yakama-Comanche woman . . . . My work explores the relationships between living on and off of the reservation and how these relations influence my way of life. I tend to use iconography and popular culture as a tool to delve deeper into the untold indigenous history of America."

Photo of Paloma Ayala by Cate Kotchkiss
Photo of Paloma Ayala by Cate Kotchkiss

Paloma Ayala Vela is a graphic designer and photographer on Riverkeeper’s board. She frequently hikes along the Columbia River and shares her stunning photography to promote our work. “I believe in the power of visual documentation. I see my pictures as unique ways to explain what happens in the same land, from different perspectives and angles of interest. An image of a beautiful landscape is just a little fraction of a story. For me, the picture gets completed when there’s a connection between what we see and the stories and work of the people.”

Amanda Triplett is an interdisciplinary fiber artist from Portland working on an installation piece, “The Exquisite Gorge Project II: Fiber Arts.” This community-based project allows artists from different communities to collaborate and create different sections of the Columbia River in textiles. She interviewed our Community Organizer Kate Murphy to learn more about how data inspires our work. Check out the exhibit this August at Maryhill Museum.

Artists power the movement with creative solutions to get our attention. American painter Robert Rauschenberg once said,

The artist’s job is to be a witness to his time in history.

Art inspires people to engage in issues—the history of art and activism go hand-in-hand.

Newsletter "Spring Into Action" Edition

Join Columbia Riverkeeper’s team as we spring into action to keep up the tremendous, humbling work of collectively fighting for what we love: clean water, our climate, and our communities.Read more