Arts and Culture may be one of the most important resources we have when it comes to sustainability. Why you may ask? It's simple, Arts and Culture are what feed the human soul with the ability to dream and hope, that provide the creativity for self-expression that brings us altogether. Arts and Culture are also a clean natural resource that when harnessed and managed correctly can provide jobs and be economic stimulators for a community, as well as educational resources. Across America today, we are seeing once abandoned theater houses becoming revitalized and being put to good use as homes to artists, set builders, and many others. Here at ReNewable Now, we want to share all these great success stories, and profile the people who are helping to keep the arts alive and healthy for all of us to enjoy.
The stars made their way along the red carpet to attend the 89th Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California last Sunday. As they strolled through the paparazzi, cameras flashed, crowds cheered, and security kept a keen eye on everyone’s safety. This was my first time reporting from the Oscars,and I had more than just movies on my mind, I was on a mission to track down a story lead that I came across not too long ago. It was about the famous jewelry company Swarovski and how they were celebrating their 10th year of illuminating the Oscars, but this year, using over one million crystals to help make the stars shine on stage while also embracing the spirit of sustainability.
Before I got to see this incredible stage display, there was another story about Swarovski supporting sustainability at the Oscars, one that was very dear to my heart and our audience as well that was the Red Carpet Green Dress project. The Red Carpet Green Dress project was created by Suzy Amis Cameron to help stimulate sustainable design, global green education, and raise funds for the non-profit MUSE School CA and MUSE Global, which she founded with her sister, Rebecca Amis. What could be better than that? To help bring attention to Red Carpet Green Dress, Atelier Swarovski, a responsible fine jewelry collection made it’s debut that evening with along side Red Carpet Green Dress. It was beautiful and definitely got a lot of attention.
Now for those of you who follow RNN, you know how important the arts are to us and how they make a connection to sustainability. Their is no question that responsible companies also see the important connection and Swarovski is no exception. On the surface one may be be a smitten with the elegance and beauty of gorgeous jewelry, but in today’s day and age when social conscious purchasing is becoming the norm, people look much deeper at what they are buying. A s a matter of fact, Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio starred in a powerful film some years ago that showed the exploitation of workers: the violence, and abuse of children all related to the diamond industry, the film “Blood Diamond.” This film shed a light on an industry that many felt guilty for supporting. So today, with technology, you don’t necessarily need a block buster film to let you know the social practices of a company an active consumer does their homework. And I did my homework when it came to Swarovski; they have a lot to be proud of when it comes to being socially responsible.
What I found was the following:
Throughout its history, Swarovski has endeavored to remain true to its founder Daniel Swarovski's vision of a responsible company that has at heart not only its employees' wellbeing but also that of the environment and society as a whole.
This vision drives the company's dedication to producing beautiful products using responsible methods that respect the wellbeing of people and the planet.
Atelier Swarovski is a certified member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), an organization established by the jewelry industry to advance responsible social and environmental practices. As a member, Atelier Swarovski aligns its business operations with the RJC Code of Practices and pledges to positively impact and influence the industry.
Atelier Swarovski received RJC certification after being successfully independently audited against the RJC Code of Practice, on materials including diamonds, gold and platinum group metals.
The Swarovski Crystal Business is a member of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), and its strategy aligns with the ten principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.
The global Swarovski Waterschool education program has reached 257,000 children on the world's greatest rivers, and the Swarovski Foundation, set up in 2013, works to support culture and creativity, promote wellbeing, and conserve natural resources to achieve positive social impact.
A very impressive list of accomplishments and principals that help to guide this 122 year old company that began back in the small town of Wattens high in Austrian alps and founded by Daniel Swarovski.
And as I made my way outside the beautiful stage on Oscar night, I thought about Daniel Swarovski’s spirit shinning through those beautiful crystals high above for the world to see knowing that each glimmer was tied back to a company that is doing well by doing right.
About Azzurra Catucci:
Azzurra has been an associate producer and reporter for RNN for three years, during which she has done a number of reports and interviews that focus on sustainability. Beyond RNN, Azzurra is an Eco-Rep for Elon University in North Carolina, where she is in her junior year as a Communications Fellow, and serves as the president of CinElon Productions, Elon's on-campus film production company.
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH
in the end Wasn't Sustainable
Photo Credit Steven Depolo
The Ringling Brothers Circus has been around for years, but, as most unsustainable things, it is approaching its end. After facing considerable drops in ticket sales and vast opposition from various animal rights organizations and concerned citizens, Ringling Bros Circus will officially bring the big top down for good later this year. As a staple of American entertainment for over a century, the Ringling Brother’s Circus has been a yearly tradition for many families and has garnered audiences of all ages. However, in recent years, as many citizens have become more aware of and concerned socially, environmentally and advocates of animal rights, the popularity and gaiety surrounding Ringling Bros began to diminish.
It seems that the kind-hearted work of concerned individuals has had a considerable impact, because the circus’ business began tanking, with less tickets being sold and prices getting higher. While this is a huge triumph in the perspective of animal and human rights and sustainability, the power and impact of concerned individuals has been evidenced before when it comes to animals in entertainment. Just 4 years ago, the acclaimed documentary Blackfish premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to raving reviews. It went on to receive a wide release and distribution from CNN Films and Magnolia Pictures. Blackfish reached audiences across the globe, and sparked what was essentially a boycott of SeaWorld. After this documentary’s release, SeaWorld faced insurmountable backlash and steadily decreasing business. SeaWorld was no longer a fun, innocent attraction, but rather, a place of inhumane action against whales.
If there is anything that the American public is not fond of, it is deceit on the account of brands they’ve grown to trust. Both the Ringling Brothers Circus and SeaWorld marketed themselves as places of enjoyment and happiness for performers (animal and human alike) and audiences, but when investigated, were revealed to be full of despair and terror. It is thanks to the power of concerned individuals and media that the realities of these entities were exposed, and consequently forcing the entities to end their horrid practices. Sometimes things are not what they seem, which emphasizes the importance of doing one’s research before buying into something, whether that be food, clothing, or amusement. While some jobs may be lost in the shutting down of Ringling Brothers and the downsizing of SeaWorld, this will hopefully lead to jobs becoming available in more sustainable, friendly entities that provide humane entertainment for all audiences and the performers universally (human and animal alike).
RNN Live at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival
Photo Credit Sundance Institute
RNN is happy to announce that we will be covering the 2017 Sundance Film Festival from the opening day, January 19, to closing ceremonies, January 29. Our very own Azzurra Catucci will be arriving in Park City, Utah to begin providing coverage. Azzurra will be focusing on the films and documentaries that are speaking about such concerns as climate change, environmental issues and overall sustainability. She will also be reporting on the festival itself and how eco-friendly it is, from recycling, composting, all to way to whether the food served is being locally sourced.
This year's festival is in some ways making sustainability a top priority with An Inconvenient Sequel, the followup to watershed environmental documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, making its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. As a Day One screening, part of The New Climate, a program dedicated to conversations and films about environmental change and conservation.
A decade after An Inconvenient Truth brought climate change into the heart of popular culture comes An Inconvenient Sequel, a riveting look at both the escalation of the crisis and how close we are to a real solution. Directed by Sundance Film Festival alumni Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk.
The Honorable Al Gore, 45th Vice President of the United States, will also join the Festival’s Power of Story panel, a collaboration between Sundance Institute and The Redford Center, with former President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, producer Heather Rae (Frozen River, RISE), social entrepreneur and philanthropist Jeff Skoll and environmentalist and scientist Dr. David Suzuki. A conversation between these prominent figures, who bring decades of direct experience with climate change and its effects, will be moderated by Democracy Now! journalist and broadcaster Amy Goodman on January 22, 2017, and livestreamed from Park City’s Egyptian Theatre at sundance.org.
The New Climate includes 14 documentaries, short films and virtual reality experiences across the Festival’s categories, and marks the first time that Festival programmers have focused efforts to highlight a specific cause.
Robert Redford, President and Founder of Sundance Institute, said, "I believe that storytelling is the greatest platform for getting people to care and take action on some of the most pressing issues of our time. Amid escalating threats to our environment, independent perspectives are adding the depth and dimension needed for us to find common ground and real solutions."
RNN is looking forward to our coverage and to sharing the stories from the story tellers themselves with you.
Ring in the New Year with Bald Eagles
The World Famous LIVE DC Eagle Cam Will Launch on New Years Eve.
Earlier this year, the world fell in love with watching eagle pair "Mr. President" & "The First Lady" LIVE on dceaglecam.org while they raised their eagle family (eaglets "Liberty" & "Freedom") atop a Tulip poplar tree within the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington DC.
With over 60 million views during the 5-month nest-viewing season, it quickly became one of the most popular live animal cams on the Internet.
Hundreds of thousands of eagle nest cam fans have been waiting anxiously for these live-streaming video cams to go live again in 2017 and will now be happy to know that they won't have to wait much longer! The launch date for the DC Eagle Cam has been set to take place on New Year's Eve!
Even still, viewers will have to wait several months before any fuzzy little eaglets make an appearance inside the Arboretum nest.
Therefore, the non-profit American Eagle Foundation (AEF) would like to announce that eagle lovers and fanatics can start getting their "eaglet fix" right now by watching another one of the AEF's well-known and beloved LIVE Eagle Cams (nefleaglecam.org).
In Northeast Florida, 80 feet up in the air inside a Slash Pine tree, eagle parents "Romeo" and "Juliet" have welcomed their 16th eaglet ("NE16") into the world and are currently waiting for their 17th eaglet ("NE17") to join them in the nest!
The nesting pair laid two eggs in November, the first one on Veterans Day and the second one soon afterwards on the day of the Super Moon.
NE16, the first eaglet, "pipped" (cracked a hole in its shell from the inside) on December 16th at 5:44 p.m. EST and fully emerged from its egg over 40 hours later on December 18th at 10:27 a.m. EST.
The second eaglet, NE17, pipped through its eggshell this morning, first seen on the LIVE cams around 6:44 a.m. EST. Viewers can catch all the action and watch NE17 hatch over the next 24-48 hours by visiting nefleaglecam.org right now!
Clean Air Council's 11th Annual Greenfest Philly
Clean Air Council's 11th Annual Greenfest Philly returned to Headhouse Square (2nd and South Streets) this past Sunday, September 11, 2016. The tri-state region's largest environmental festival was tastier than ever - with new cooking demonstrations with Miss Rachel's Pantry, P'unk Burger and Revolution Taco, plus organic food vendors, free coffee from Joe Coffee, outdoor beer garden and edible bugs. Festivities also included live music, group bike rides, free adult and kids' yoga, hybrid vehicle test drives, handmade and green shopping, MOM's Organic Market Kids' Corner and a twenty-five foot rock wall
"Greenfest is an important festival because we celebrate all things happening in our city to promote sustainability and we reaffirm our commitment to a positive future," said Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director. "It gives me an optimistic view to see these wonderful ideals in thousands of attendees, and I love to see the passion that Philadelphians have for our environment. Philadelphia has a lot to be proud of."
"Toyota and the Tri-State Toyota Dealers are very proud to be the first-ever Automotive Presenting Sponsor for the 11th annual Greenfest Philly," said President of the Tri-State Toyota Dealers Association Paul Muller. "With Toyota's ongoing commitment to the development of vehicles that help reduce carbon emissions in addition to being at the forefront of alternative fuel leadership, we are thrilled to once again support the Clean Air Council in another one of their unique events that extends awareness to living sustainably."
"Toyota is committed to helping play a role in delivering cleaner air and environmental sustainability to our customers. With a portfolio of seven Toyota hybrid models (soon to be eight), we are the leader in hybrid vehicles and have selection of hybrid sedans and SUV models to fit our customers' diversified needs – including the newest edition to our hybrid line-up, the Prius Prime, which will be onsite at this year's Toyota Hybrid display and Ride-and-Drive experience at the Greenfest celebration at the iconic Shambles at Headhouse," added Muller. We are excited and proud to bring, the first-ever, Prius Prime to the city of Philadelphia and provide the opportunity for one to take a test drive of the most technologically advanced and best-equipped Prius in the model's history with a manufacturer-estimated 120 or above MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and expected to be the highest MPGe rating of any Plug-in Hybrid," said Muller.
Now in its eleventh year, this popular event will provide a unique opportunity for 10,000-15,000 attendees to learn how to live life a little greener and healthier. Festivities will include live music from popular local bands, MOM's Organic Market kid's corner with eco-friendly crafts and music, green beauty tips and makeovers, organic food and drinks, a beer garden, handmade goods, hands on environmental education, ways to take action for clean air, and much more. Alongside that fun, 150+ sponsors, local businesses, supporters and vendors will help transform Headhouse Square into a festive, fun and educational outdoor marketplace.
Business Leaders and NGO'S Join Forces to Call for a "True North" for a Sustainable Global Economy
An ensemble of global business leaders, NGO'S and academics have joined forces to call for a, sustainable global economic model to be adopted by governments and businesses alike.
Peter Lacy, Managing Director (Accenture Strategy); Werner Furhmann, Executive Board Member (Akzo Nobel N.V).and Leonie Schreve, Global Head of Sustainable Lending (ING Bank); join the cast in an engaging new 18 minute documentary film called "Circularity-Preparing For The New Economy" produced by Digital Content and marketing specialists The Business Debate Ltd .
The film, Circularity: Preparing for the new economy, provides a broad overview of what the "circular economy" is and contains commentary from a number of business analysts. It asks how we can sustain economic growth in a world of finite natural resources and a growing global population.
In the film, Peter Lacy says:
"The idea of a true north version of capitalism that provides the economic development, prosperity and positive growth that we want, but does it in a way that is socially just and environmentally sustainable, is the key challenge that we face as a generation, not just of business leaders, but of governments and citizens around the world."
Since the industrial revolution, global population, waste, natural resource and energy use has grown exponentially and our economies have used a "take-make-consume and dispose" pattern of growth - a linear model which assumes that natural resources are abundant, available and cheap to dispose of.
The film describes how our current economy, one dependent on virgin, finite, natural resources a "linear economy" simply cannot work in the long-term and how globally we need to adopt an economic model that is built for the world we face today and tomorrow.
This new economic model has become known as "The Circular Economy" and offers a model for an economy that would be more resilient in the long-term and create more prosperity for a changing world.
According to The United Nations we live in a world where if we don't change our methods of production and consumption-in the face of exponential global population growth and the accompanying industrial production, we will face a forty percent shortfall in the availability of fresh water, anticipating global forecasts for demand and available supply by 2030 and, where we know that the demand for food will grow by 70% by 2050 at the same time as we face declines in agricultural yields and fresh water sources.
While our present "linear economy" has been successful in creating wealth and taking millions out of poverty, it's now "past its sell by date" because the surplus available from cheap oil and materials has declined, natural resources are in decline and we now need to move to a more resilient economic system that would feature the reuse of materials and "closed loop cycles".
According to research by Dutch Bank ING sustainable business is more profitable business-, as Leonie Schreve, says:
"Companies that are pro actively approaching sustainability and resource scarcity we already see in research that the financial performance of these companies is better. It can range from 30-40% better".
Peter Lacy continues: "The circular economy is a concept that is pro-business and pro-growth but it's about driving a different kind of growth - a growth that innovates for customers, and eliminates wasted and harmful materials. It's based on the idea of using assets more effectively, closing loops, extending product lifecycles, while not cannibalising business".
Research from Accenture Strategy, unveiled in its book, Waste to Wealth, suggests that The Circular Economy can unlock $4.5 trillion in value by 2030 for "organisations that get it right".
NCAA Final Four Promoting Sustainability
Can sports be a major resource when it comes to promoting sustainable awareness? Well LG Electronics USA believes so as they partner with this year's NCAA Final Four.
As the 2016 Men's Final Four® approaches, NCAA® Official Corporate Partner LG Electronics USA is working with the Houston Local Organizing Committee (HLOC) to promote environmental sustainability, tipping off on Selection Sunday with a local e-waste recycling drive.
LG has joined forces with the HLOC and leading electronics recycler EPC for a free e-waste drive, on March 13 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Discovery Green in conjunction with the local March Madness® Selection Sunday Celebration. Participants dropping off unused and outdated electronics for responsible recycling will receive a free ticket to Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One.
The event provides residents a convenient and responsible way to dispose of used, unwanted, obsolete or damaged electronics, said William Cho, president and CEO, LG Electronics USA. "After recycling their old electronics, consumers can save energy and fight climate change by replacing them with ENERGY STAR® qualified products," he said. As they recycle old TVs, monitors and other electronics, fans can "Do Game Day Right" with attractive LG March Madness rebate offers on ENERGY STAR-certified consumer electronics and appliance packages through local retailers like Conn's.
Electronic items such as computer components (hard drives, monitors, scanners, keyboards, etc.), home electronics (TVs, radios, CD and DVD players, etc.) and small home and office appliances are all acceptable materials for electronic recycling. (Large appliances, such as refrigerators or washing machines, fluorescent lamps and radioactive or biohazardous waste are not permitted.) For more information about items eligible for recycling, consumers can contact EPC at 713-498-0551.
LG is committed to using e-Stewards-certified third-party recyclers like EPC, increasing the total amount of used electronics collected for reuse and recycling, and publicly posting information and data. The Houston event builds on LG's leadership in responsible electronics recycling, which includes Gold Tier Award recognition in the Environmental Protection Agency's Sustainable Materials Management Electronics Challenge.
The Houston recycling effort coincides with the city's March Madness tip-off-event. The HLOC is hosting a free event for fans to watch the NCAA Basketball Championship Selection Show on CBS, where the 68 Division I Men's College Basketball Teams will be announced.
The Art of Smog
Our friends at Formula-E shared this story with us, and we wanted to share it with you- a Chinese artist's approach to trying to bring awareness to the pollution in China.
The pressing need for a drastic change in the quality of air in Beijing – the home of Formula E in China – has been graphically brought to life by an artist know as Brother Nut.
Armed with an industrial vacuum cleaner, Nut spent four hours a day for 100 days walking the streets of Beijing, passing the famous Birds Nest Arena, where the Beijing ePrix takes place, during his tour. After 100 days he had collected 100 grams of dust and smog, which he baked into a brick by mixing it with clay.
“It’s not healthy. You have nowhere to hide. It is in the air and all around us,” Nut told The Guardian. "The more we pursue and dig for resources, the more dust we will produce. When all the world's resources are exhausted one day, we will end up with becoming real dust ourselves.”
The creation of the smog brick came at a significant time in Beijing, as the Particulate Matter (PM2.5) Index hit its all-time highest figure. According to data from the U.S State Department Air Quality Monitoring Program, the index read over 500 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) - the World Health Organisations ‘safe levels’ for PM2.5 levels is 25 ug/m3!
Formula E, is committed to the improvement of air quality in cities through the development and promotion of Electric Vehicles, sustainable mobility and clean energy. Formula E, alongside our partners, serves as a framework to showcase new sustainable technologies and to address important contemporary environmental issues to a global audience.
New Year's Solar Powered Folk Festival
SCU Sunflower to solar-power one of the first Australian music concerts for 2016.
Flower power will be on display at the Woodford Folk Festival, with the SCU Sunflower powering one of the first music concerts for 2016 at the New Year Sunrise Ceremony.
The Sunflower, the University’s solar-powered audio system, will be set-up at the iconic Hilltop stage where world music performers will welcome in the new year from 4.15am on Friday, January 1.
"It’s great that the Sunflower will be solar-powering one of the first Australian music concerts for 2016. It’s symbolic of the rapid development of practical sustainable energy technologies around the world,” said Dr Barry Hill, lead investigator on the Sunflower project and lecturer in music.
“When we launched the Sunflower in 2013 there was no other system like it. In the past three years companies like IBM, Google and Tesla have invested heavily in the technology that is revolutionising the way we generate electricity.”
Since its launch at Bluesfest in 2013 where it powered the Lotus Palace, the Sunflower has been showcased around the country at arts and music events highlighting its capacity to generate electricity, including the Sydney Vivid Festival, Brisbane WOMEX World Music Expo, and the Lismore Arts vs Science Festival. At each festival the project has been operated by SCU students as part of their audio technology studies.
During the Woodford Folk Festival, the Sunflower will showcase some unique data monitoring software developed by the University’s School of Arts and Social Sciences in conjunction with local computer software developer Kim O’Sullivan of Makina Systems.
“Using inexpensive Raspberry Pi computers, this unique communication system allows us to wirelessly and remotely communicate with the Sunflower generator and to project the energy use data information onto video screens so the bands and the audience can monitor how much energy the music is consuming - and how much the Sunflower is generating,” Dr Hill said.
Using this same computer system, Dr Hill has designed an innovative sound installation where the music is controlled by the sun.
"Woodford Folk Festival and the Queensland Folk Federation are super keen to incorporate solar and sustainable energy and understand the way that festivals and the music industry can be used to demonstrate new and creative solutions to environmental issues,” said Dr Hill.
"If we had a few more solar Sunflowers then we could run entire festivals from mobile solar energy generators that are easy to install and require no maintenance, incur no fuel costs and reduce carbon emissions.”
As well as installing and monitoring the SCU Sunflower system with a group of student volunteers at Woodford, Dr. Hill will be talking about the project’s evolution at the GREENhouse venue on Sunday December 27 at 2.25pm in a presentation called ‘The Sunflower Solar Audio Project.'
The Terminator Pushes Solar
Arnold Schwarzenegger, action hero and one-time California “governator”, has sent a message to critics that could have come straight out of one of his movies.
“I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change.”
In a note posted via his Facebook page, Arnie – who in 2011 was named Renewable Energy Leader Of The Decade by the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) – responds to those raising doubts about his crusade for a clean energy future and invites sceptics to answer three questions of his own.
“There are always a few of you … questioning the science of climate change. I want you to know that I hear you. Even those of you who say renewable energy is a conspiracy. Even those who say climate change is a hoax. Even those of you who use four letter words.
“I’ve heard all of your questions, and now I have three questions for you.”
Schwarzenegger then rips into climate doubters with comments on pollution-related mortality rates and the inevitable rise of renewables.
“I, personally, want a plan,” he writes.
“I don’t want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That’s exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.”
Arnold’s record on the environment is nearly as powerful as his record at the box office. As Governor of California in 2006 he signed the USA’s first cap on greenhouse gas emissions and instituted a statewide Solar Mission, which aims to add 2GW of solar capacity by the end of 2016.
“California has some of the most revolutionary environmental laws in the United States, we get 40% of our power from renewables, and we are 40% more energy efficient than the rest of the country. We were an early-adopter of a clean energy future.”
After an exercise in visualization, whereby critics are asked to choose between being in a sealed room containing either a petrol-fueled car or an electric vehicle – both with engines running, Mr. Schwarzenegger makes his feelings very clear:
“To use one of the four-letter words all of you commenters love, I don’t give a damn if you believe in climate change. I couldn’t care less if you’re concerned about temperatures rising or melting glaciers. It doesn’t matter to me which of us is right about the science.”
2016 Rhode Island Nature Video Festival
Are you looking to be the next Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese?
Well those two big names got their start somewhere, and now our friends at the Environment Council of Rhode Island and Gregg Gerritt are giving aspiring filmmakers their chance to showcase what they've got when it comes to short films. The one thing all these submitted films will have in common is that they all have the same leading lady, and that is Rhode Island's Mother Nature. The challenge is to showcase the abundant, diverse and scenic beauty of the natural wonders of Rhode Island. Now, in theory, the hard part isn't finding it, Rhode Island has everything from bees to bears, but the hard part may be what the directors are going to choose for their theme.
The deadline for submissions is December 10, 2015. Videos submitted after 11:59 PM on December 10 will not be accepted.
We're looking forward to see what inspiring images come from Rhode Island's nature, and possibly witnessing the next great film maker. Click Here For Entry Details.
R&B Singer Akon To Create Solar Academy
Announced last week by Akon Lighting Africa, the creation of a solar academy in Bamako, Mali will help beef up Africa’s solar workforce.
Akon Lighting Africa founders, Akon, Thione Niang and Samba Bathily, say the facility will be the first on the continent to cater to African solar entrepreneurs, engineers and technicians.
“We are doing more than just investing in clean energy. We are investing in human capital,” said Samba Bathily. “We can achieve great milestones and accelerate the African transformation process on condition that we start training a new generation of highly qualified African engineers, technicians and entrepreneurs now.”
In partnership with Solektra International and through collaboration with experts from Europe who will provide training equipment and other resources, the Academy will train in all aspects of installing and maintaining solar power systems; with a strong focus on micro-grids.
More than 600 million Africans still do not have access to electricity – but with significant solar radiation levels and the cost of solar continually dropping; it’s a slam dunk for a booming solar industry.
Akon Lighting Africa says it seeks to provide grass roots solutions to Africa’s energy crisis and lay the foundations for future development.
Akon; whose full name is apparently Aliaune Damala Thiam, may be a successful (if at times controversial) recording artist now, but he reportedly spent much of his childhood without electricity in the West African nation of Senegal before leaving at the age of seven to live in the USA in Union City, New Jersey.
In addition to the Solar Academy, Akon Lighting Africa is working to distribute and install solar-powered street lights and residential solar systems in villages in 14 African countries, including Senegal, Mali, and Burkina Faso.
The project commenced early last year with the securing of $1 billion in credit lines with international banks and financial partners. The average investment per village is $75,000 and almost $400 million in total has been invested so far.
“Thanks to Akon Lighting Africa we have launched in one year a new dynamic and helped raising collective awareness: solutions are available, ready to hand and we can address the electrification challenge – quickly!” says Akon.
Batman & The Arts Help to Re-Build a City
Can Batman Help Re-Build A City?
Well, it may not be Gotham, but West Warwick, Rhode Island has had its fair share of challenges over the years as a once vibrant New England Mill Town that helped spark America’s industrial revolution. The city has seen itself, like many other cities and towns in New England, being challenged for ways to be revitalized. One such project that caught the attention of ReNewable Now was newly opened theater TheArctic Playhouse that took a previously vacant storefront in the downtown district and converted it into a vibrant resource. This idea was the brain child of David Vieira, Jim Belanger, Lloyd Felix, and Lenny Schwartz all having experience in the arts and a passion for seeing West Warwick get on the map when it comes to live performances.
ReNewable Now was invited to attend one of their performances over the weekend, “Co-Creator,” the untold story of the creation of BATMAN. The story follows the life of Bill Finger, a name that many of us today still may not recognize, but this play may change that. Bill is played by Chris Ferreira, who captures a tortured soul's struggle in coping with his failures as an unfulfilled comic writer that transcends into his personal life. The antagonist of the story is none other than Bob Kane, the man who’s been most credited and financially rewarded with the creation of Batman. In the beginning of this story, we learn how the two first meet and we get a sense of Bob Kane’s ability to identify what Bill is passionate about, and once he knows Bill’s passion, which is to be a writer, he encourages him to join him in writing and creating in the world of comics alongside of him. It’s not too long into the story when we see the actual idea of Batman being born and how the character evolved from both men. Kane’s character is portrayed as a selfish opportunist who has no conscience when it comes to hiring and using those who work for him to achieve his own success where money is the driving factor. Bill is the complete opposite, seeing the stories and characters they develop as having to serve a bigger purpose- one that changes society for the better. As we look at this story, it is one we can draw many other real-life comparisons to, from Thomas Edison and Nicholas Tesla, to more modern day Bill Gates and Bill Paterson (Revenge of The Nerds).
Co-Creator moves along nicely with a balance of humor to help offset some of the more serious issues that plague Bill and the recurring pain of not being recognized as co-creator to the Dark Knight. Our hats go off to Lenny Schwartz, the writer and director of the play, as well as to the entire cast. We also want them to be very aware that they are also playing another important role, and that is the role in helping revitalize West Warwick by bringing the arts into the city. There is no question that performing arts are an economic stimulus, and, beyond that, they are a social bonanza. We’re very happy to report that all the showings of Co-Creator have been filled to capacity and for ReNewable Now, we closely observed the interaction of the community that was there enjoying the performance. For ReNewable Now, the arts are one of the most important pillars when it comes to sustainability and positive growth. Again, congratulations.
Do Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment world have a role to play in sustainability? YES, Absolutely! And possibly a leading role through the power of STORY TELLING that will influence positive change and inspire people to help the cause. Just before Oscar night, when actors and filmmakers honor their own industry, many took the time to celebrate the environment and advocate for its protection. Global Green USA held its 12 annual pre-Oscar gala, welcoming stars to walk the green carpet and talk about pertinent issues.
Among those in attendance for the yearly event, where music was performed and vegan meals were enjoyed, were Leonardo DiCaprio, James Cameron, Cheryl Tiegs, Maggie Grace, and Marla Maples. Ashley Greene and Theo Von shared hosting duties.
"The environment is very important to me,” Tiegs told USA Today. “I think it’s a train going out of the station and it’s going to take a long time, but we’re trying for no emissions and no waste.”
Matt Walsh, an actor on Veep who was also on the host committee, advocated for water conservation at home. He explained how he got rid of the grass on his lawn and instead placed rocks and succulent plants. Also on the committee is noted environmentalist Ed Begley Jr., as well as Orlando Bloom, Ed O-Neill, Paula Abdul, and Amy Smart.
ReNewable Now couldn't pass up the chance to discuss this weekend’s MONSTER Block-Buster, Godzilla. To have a bit of fun with it, WE ask ourselves, who is doing a better job of getting the message of sustainability out to the public- Godzilla or the EPA? To be honest with our readers, the only time I can remember the EPA having a major presence in a Hollywood film that was a hit, was in The Simpson's Movie back in 2007. Grampa Simpson was speaking in tongues and recited a crypted message, where we heard "EPA, EPA, EPA," as pronounced “eepa,” as he foreshadowed impending doom and dome. Later in the film, we come to realize that his reciting of EPA over and over was his hidden reference to the Environmental Protection Agency. We're sure our friends at EPA got a laugh out of Grampa Simpson as well.
But when you reference Godzilla, we have to take a look back far to the origins of the story. Originally, it was a symbolic message about man's experimentation and use of atomic energy and the unknown horror that could result. The original Godzilla, which was produced back in 1954, was addressing this environmental concern sixteen (16) years before the EPA was even created in December of 1970. Score one for Godzilla.
In 1971 a year after the formation of the EPA what was their major community outreach campaign, anyone remember? Okay, from what we found, it was"Keep America Beautiful." If anyone has forgotten, or are too young to remember, it still resonates with many as one of the best environmental PSAs ever produced. The campaign features the Native American Iron Eyes Cody, who is devastated to see the destruction of the Earth's natural beauty caused by the thoughtless pollution and litter of a modern society. Take a look at the spot if you haven't seen it. What do we see Godzilla doing in 1971- of all things, he is battling the embodiment of the entire world's pollution as he takes on the Smog Monster. The Smog Monster feeds on Earth's pollution and grows into a poisonous, acid-secreting sea monster. Its strength continues to grow as it finds all kinds of pollution to devour. In the end, Godzilla does defeat the Smog Monster while introducing millions of people to the growing pollution and pending disasters of oil in our oceans. To us this is a toss-up, Godzilla, or Iron Eyes Cody, we'll call this one a draw.
Fast forward to 2014 and this past weekend’s film. There is no question this film has an environmental message, and Director Gareth Edwards makes no apologies for it. Edwards told the website IO9 that “Humanity has abused its position in the world”and that he sought to make viewers feel that“we’ve been asking for this.” He clarified this perspective to The Daily Beast, saying “through our abuse of nature, we inadvertently bring [these monsters] back to the world.” Not only did we cause this to happen, he continued, “we deserved it.” Strong message, with a super big audience. So 2014- what does the EPA have in it's corner? What we found was a creative campaign that introduced "The Breathe Easies.” This campaign uses online videos, radio PSAs and Web banners featuring songs about asthma triggers, which often stems from pollution.
So it's Godzilla 2014 vs The Breathe Easies, which one wins this battle? We don't know, but one thing we do know is that they all seem to be on the same team, and wouldn't it be great if we saw a crossover feature between the two? Godzilla and The EPA join forces, think about that PSA, just keep Grampa Simpson out of this one.
The Amazing Spider Man, or... Sustainability Man?
'THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN 2' is being hailed as "the most eco-friendly blockbuster in the history of Sony Pictures", and Sony sure seems proud of this green bean! Greening your set IS possible, no matter the size of your production. The studio is even going so far as to say that the film was produced to be 100% carbon neutral.
There is no question that entertainment can be an extremely powerful catalyst for change; it can set fashion trends, influence habits, and even provoke social change among governments. This is why ReNewable Now spends a great deal of time on reporting on such things as Formula E auto racing, Arts and Culture, and other leisure activities that have a sustainable and environmentally positive message. Well, now that we are seeing Marvel Comics' premier superhero being produced under Sony Pictures' Green Standards, it is more than evident that things are changing rapidly. And through the medium of film and a sure to be Blockbuster movie with a positive message, we at ReNewable Now salute Sony and all others in Arts and Entertainment who are helping to set the right tone. BRAVO, to both Spidey and Sony!
'Watch this online featurette, and see just how the film went green here.
President Obama Announces his Intent to Nominate Jane Chu as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts
WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama announced his intent to nominate Dr. Jane Chu as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.
For those of you who follow ReNewable Now you know how important we feel the Arts are when it comes to sustainability. We feel that Arts and Culture are a core component when it comes to building healthy, sustainable communities that foster creativity and self expression. For that reason we look forward to seeing Dr. Chu in her new position and learning what her priorities will be once her nomination is confirmed.
This is what President Obama said, “Jane’s lifelong passion for the arts and her background in philanthropy have made her a powerful advocate for artists and arts education in Kansas City. She knows firsthand how art can open minds, transform lives and revitalize communities, and believes deeply in the importance of the arts to our national culture. I’m proud to nominate her as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.”
Dr. Jane Chu is President and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri, a position she has held since 2006. She was a Fund Executive at the Kauffman Fund for Kansas City from 2004 to 2006, and Vice President of External Relations for Union Station Kansas City from 2002 to 2004. She was Vice President of Community Investment for the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation from 1997 to 2002. Dr. Chu is a Trustee at William Jewell College and serves on the Board of Directors of the Ewing Marion Kauffman School and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. Kansas City’s Nonprofit Connect recently announced her as their Nonprofit Professional of the Year. Dr. Chu received an A.A. in Visual Arts from Nebraska Wesleyan University, a B.M. in Piano Performance and a B.M.Ed. in Music Education from Ouachita Baptist University, an M.A. in Piano Pedagogy from Southern Methodist University, an M.B.A. from Rockhurst University, and a Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University.
Mapping The Cultural Eco-Sytem of Our Arts
In an efforts to promote and sustain arts and culture there are all kinds of groups and organizations that are working hard to ensure that future generations will not lose out on what is to be gained. One such group is Sustain Arts that is mapping out a "arts and culture ecosystem" that addresses the overall health of the arts in a particular region of the U.S. We found this fascinating and a effort very worthy of sharing with our audience, and who knows it may be a resource that you were looking for.
Sustain Arts is a community based effort to strengthen the nation's cultural infrastructure. Working with a diverse range of community partners across the country we will analyze the linkages between capitalization, demography, and participation, leading to bold new policies to support the arts at the local and national level.
Over the next three years we will:
Analyze the capitalization flows, demographics, and patterns of participation for arts and cultural organizations in each region.
Map the current arts and cultural ecosystems in each region using a web-based tool, depicting 20 years worth of data in a user-friendly format.
Provide future-looking scenarios in the mapping tool to help the sector envision the impact of shifts in funding, potential audiences, changes in available space, etc.
Facilitate data driven, conversations in each community among institutional, individual, and public funders; artists; leaders of arts organizations and creative businesses; service organizations; researchers and policy makers.
Develop consensus around regional cultural policy priorities for the sector that will inform the creation of national policy frameworks and recommendations.
If this project sounds ambitious it is, but it needs to be. Why now?
More than ever, significant challenges impede critical collective action to address the long-term health of the arts. Without substantive change many of our communities' existing and emerging arts and cultural organizations are at risk.
Failing Institutions & Endangered Organizations
Inconsistent / Underdeveloped Cultural Policy
Lack of collaboration within the field
Inconsistent data / Lack of common language
Sustain Arts will tackle the following questions.
How has our nation's cultural ecology changed over the past 20 years?
How can communities sustain the vitality of their arts ecology?
Do the arts have the resources they need to respond to changes in today's operating environment?
What does a relevant and resilient arts organization look like today?
Do these arts organizations have the programming capacity to meet the needs of future audiences?
What makes the application of capital successful in driving participation in one context and unsuccessful in another?
What cultural policy recommendations will support the long-term resilience of the arts ecologies of these regions and across the nation?
Process and Tools
Organizations will be able to view and manipulate data using a state-of-the-art mapping and data visualization tool. Not only will users be able to assess the current situation and view trends over time, they will also be able to perform scenario-planning exercises and test potential solutions under various hypothetical conditions. For example, a user can introduce a variable such as the elimination of a specific funding source within a specific context to anticipate the likely consequences. The work will not result simply in the creation of a static, snapshot-in-time database, as is the case with most research projects. Rather, this knowledge tool will draw upon a dynamically and continuously updated database that will allow arts organizations to plan more effectively, adapt more dynamically and enjoy increased resiliency well into the future.
Substantively, our work will focus on the specific linkages between capitalization, demography and participation. This will lead to a better understanding of the circumstances under which the application of capital to specific arts and cultural organizations or neighborhoods leads to increased community engagement and when it doesn't. We also expect this work to shed light on whether a community's arts and cultural organizations are aligned with projected demographic changes. It will help identify the needs of new audiences in the community and raise flags when parts of the community are at risk of being left behind. With the inclusion of the creative industries in our work we also hope to understand the increasingly important role of the private sector as both an economic engine within the greater arts ecology and as a source for innovative engagement strategies. Core Research Team
As an independent institution, the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University is uniquely positioned to overcome the sector's historic reluctance to tackle these kinds of issues, without constraints from previous work or imminent pressures for future work. Our institutional strength allows us to serve as a long-term anchor for the project's work as a convener and disseminator of its conclusions, data and strategies. Strategic partnerships with Fractured Atlas and The Foundation Center create a core research team rich in experience, both in rigorous data analysis and as active professionals in arts and culture that can leverage the projects many data sources and relationships in the field. Key Stakeholders
The project's most important asset is its broad and inclusive group of stakeholders. Unlike other efforts that have been supported by a small group of funders, the forces behind the Sustain Arts, once fully underway, will be one of the largest sector-focused groups to come together around data and policy. Through these stakeholders, we will create deeply engaged and informed communities who understand the short and long-term needs of their arts and cultural assets and are willing to embed their learning in their work. Project Geography and Timeline
Sustain Arts will include work in six of the following communities: Philadelphia, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, St. Paul (and Minneapolis), the Bay Area (including San Jose), Boston and Los Angeles. These regions represent diverse demographics, challenges, opportunities and economies; as well as differences in the size and breadth of their arts and cultural institutions.
The Sustain Arts timeline is as follows:
Sept. 2012-Jan 2014: Detroit and the Bay Area
May 2013-November 2014: Communities 3 & 4
Jan 2014-June 2015: Communities 5 & 6
In each community, we will create leadership launch committees and larger regional panels, including diverse regional stakeholders, public, private and institutional funders, arts and cultural organization executives, artists, and policy makers. Approximately six months following the formation of the regional panels, stakeholders in each pilot city will begin reviewing and responding to preliminary data, including a cultural assets map of their community with linkages to capitalization, demographics and participation patterns and the capacity for each community to do future scenario planning. This regional feedback will take place iteratively as data is analyzed and built into the tool.
Once the data review is complete, the regional panels will develop a recommended policy framework for each community that provides recommendations on how the community can leverage its available resources, increase audience development and engagement, and build community buy-in for the public, private and philanthropic that can best sustain and nurture its highest-impact cultural assets.
At the National level: Commencing in 2013 and continuing through the fall of 2015, the project's national panel will review the work of each of the communities' grassroots efforts and resulting framework, to begin the process of weaving together national policy recommendations. This effort will be supported by field-wide engagement and communication and will drive many national conversations as it leads to a series of recommended national policies and supporting strategies that mirror the work that has taken place in each of the communities. Each community's work will feed the National Panel, and the regional panels will be invited to participate in the relevant national panel discussions on their work.
In the spring of 2011, Pratt Center for Community Development launched a two-year program designed to connect the arts and artists with our multi-layered work, helping New York City communities to become more environmentally sustainable. Supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Cultural Innovation Fund, the Center has partnered with academic and community organizations to produce innovative culture, arts, media and organizing strategies that seek to engage neighborhood residents and artists to promote sustainable, environmental action. This project is a part of Pratt Center’s broader goal to develop replicable models that will aid urban communities’ efforts to become environmentally sustainable -- intensive work we are doing in partnership with nine different community organizations in all five boroughs of NYC.
Two of the groups Pratt Center has been working with are Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (BSRC) and the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC). For the past two years we’ve provided a broad range of technical assistance and support to their efforts to “green” their neighborhoods. With BSRC, the pilot program Retrofit-Block-by-Block encourages block associations, houses of worship, and other community groups to facilitate home and church weatherization and other actions that can reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. CHLDC has launched Cypress Hills Verde, an effort to develop a community-wide sustainability plan where neighbors work together to identify and prioritize environmental issues and then generate creative self-help and government intervention strategies to improve their neighborhood.
Pratt Center’s arts, culture and sustainability initiative was designed to enhance these efforts. The infusion of arts and culture is used to further engage and educate community residents by reinforcing and normalizing sustainable values and behaviors. Working together, CHLDC, BSRC and Pratt Center hope to spark a high level of community dialogue that gains momentum and excitement around sustainability concepts, as well as resident involvement in the efforts needed to generate sustainable communities.
To help identify artists and organize a major art exhibit, Pratt Institute’s Initiative for Arts, Community and Social Change (IACSC) has also been engaged as a partner. IACSC is a collaboration of faculty and administrators who work together to support interdisciplinary activities that demonstrate the power of art and design as catalysts for social change. The group’s expertise enhances the capacity of all of the partners in this venture.
Pratt Center is proud to have helped initiate the following events, funded by the Rockefeller Cultural Innovation Fund Grant, in collaboration with Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation and its partnering organization Arts East New York.:
Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation’s Energy Block Party: June 4th, 2011 The Energy Block Party was a free, public event that provided an opportunity for Cypress Hills and East New York community members to learn useful information about reducing their energy use and lowering energy bills. Pratt Center assisted CHLDC and Arts East NY by providing art-based and sustainability-based resources to enhance the event’s goal of an equitable, sustainable, and culturally vital community. As part of the Million Trees NYC Initiative, and in partnership with New York Restoration Project, CHLDC launched a 250 tree give-away. They brought community-based food educators, recently trained at East New York Farms, to conduct healthy cooking demonstrations. A children’s art and education corner and community mural, planned in partnership with Arts East New York, explored sustainability issues in the community through art. The event also launched the Community Satisfaction Survey to assess residents’ concerns in four topic areas: Living, Working, Eating and Learning.
Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation’s Verde! Summit: October 22, 2011 This community-wide event sponsored and planned by CHLDC, and attracting several hundred residents from Cypress Hills and East New York, included: workshops to discuss topics that reflect the results from the Community Satisfaction Survey, to prioritize and devise solutions for community concerns, as well as gather feedback on and identify strategic Brownfields Opportunity Areas (BOA) sites. Pratt Center assisted with event planning and workshop development, and incorporated arts elements throughout the program, including opportunities for residents to express their ideas through the City as Play 6-Step Design Workshop technique, through which community members utilized reused everyday materials – such as bottle caps and old Legos – to visually depict their ideal community. The Summit also included a community arts workshop, planned in partnership with Arts East New York, which included kids’ arts activities facilitated by local artists. Each activity explored various aspects of what makes a neighborhood environmentally and culturally sustainable. Pratt Center was instrumental in providing the materials, staff and volunteers to make the Summit a success.
CHLDC and Arts East New York’s Sustainable Neighborhoods Documentary Project: Fall 2011 With funds from Pratt’s CIF grant, CHLDC enhanced its sustainability work and connected it to the creative efforts of Arts East New York through the medium of film. Pratt supported the two organizations in their efforts to develop a series of documentary films by local filmmakers to increase awareness of sustainable community development in the Cypress Hills and East New York neighborhoods. CHLDC & Arts East New York produced short documentaries by filmmakers Hemamset Angaza and Paige Stewart, exploring Cypress Hills/East New York as a community on the rise highlighting the wants and needs of its residents and the efforts being made to improve quality of life. The objective of this project was to increase awareness of sustainable community development in the Cypress Hills and East New York neighborhoods through film as a creative, engaging medium. The short films were presented to the community upon completion.
Arts East New York’s Summer Saturdaze: July 9 to August 27, 2011 Arts East New York hosted Summer Saturdaze, a series of cultural events for East New York residents who have limited access to local arts resources. The events took place at the East New York Farms farmers market, and were designed to explore socio-economic issues through artistic interpretation as well as amplify local sustainability concerns in the community. Arts East New York produced eight events in partnership with Pratt Center and with additional support from the Brooklyn Arts Council and Citizens Committee for New York City. Pratt Center worked with Arts East New York to incorporate sustainability components into each event. For example, we included props and sets made out of recycled materials in a performance of The Wiz highlighting environmentally conscious behavior, and we coordinated with the Department of Sanitation to display prototype recycling collection bins at Caribbean Day.
Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s Youth Arts Education: Spring 2011 and Fall 2011 The Youth Arts Academy offered a twelve week multidisciplinary program for thirty, 2nd grade students from C.S. 21 & P.S. 93 twice a week. The program was designed as an introduction to environmental literacy with a focus on food. Through this program, students learned to respect and honor “Mother Earth” through explorations of the environment and perspectives reflecting attitudes and awareness in their own backyards, beginning in their home. Upon completion of the 12 week experience, students were left with the knowledge and tools necessary to continue their exploration of sustainability and are empowered to make a difference as young environmentalists for a brighter tomorrow.
Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s Restoration Rocks: October 8. 2011 The year 2011 marked the 5th Annual Bed-Stuy Alive! Festival, a week-long neighborhood celebration, which promotes and inspires community sustainability through the theme of “Bed-Stuy Alive! Live Healthy, Live Well, Live Green.” Restoration Rocks was the kick-off event of Bed-Stuy Alive! and took place on Fulton Street between Brooklyn and Marcy Avenues, in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn. Restoration Rocks featured live cultural performances from local schools and community organizations as well as a free day-long music concert of some of the most dynamic emerging and established artists performing on the Brooklyn stage, highlighting the rich culture and vibrancy of the Bed-Stuy community. This year’s performance lineup included: Mos Def & the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Homeboy Sandman, Joel Ortiz and Pharoahe Monch and more. In addition to music and dance, the free outdoor neighborhood celebration included an awards presentation honoring some of Bedford Stuyvesant’s community legends. Local small businesses and sustainability-related community organizations hosted information booths at the event focused on community sustainability in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Amplify Action: Sustainability through the Arts: April 20, 2012 “Amplify Action: Sustainability through the Arts” will be presented in Spring 2012 by the Skylight Gallery, a part of BSRC’s Center for Arts and Culture. The exhibition is conceived to demonstrate how arts, culture and media are powerful catalysts for social change and aims to engage neighborhoods in a dialogue about sustainable living, making healthy consumer choices, and taking environmental action. Works in the exhibit will directly and indirectly examine the different components of sustainability such as, but not limited to: ecology, economy, equity, environmental consciousness, resource conservation and efficiency, agriculture, architecture, infrastructure, environmental justice and health.
Michelle Obama : Why The Arts Are Paramount
Michelle Obama hosted a concert at the Pittsburgh Creative & Performing Arts School for its students and the spouses of international leaders deliberating at the G-20 economic summit. She gave an 11-minute address about the arts as a prelude to performances by guests Sara Bareilles, Yo-Yo Ma and Trisha Yearwood. Here are excerpts from her speech, from a transcript issued by the White House:
“We believe strongly that the arts aren't somehow an 'extra’ part of our national life, but instead we feel that the arts are at the heart of our national life. It is through our music, our literature, our art, drama and dance that we tell the story of our past and we express our hopes for the future. Our artists challenge our assumptions in ways that many cannot and do not. They expand our understandings, and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways….. "It's through this constant exchange -- this process of taking and giving, this process of borrowing and creating -- that we learn from each other and we inspire each other. It is a form of diplomacy in which we can all take part…. “Today ... we're presenting the gifts of these wonderful American artists to our friends from all around the world. And these artists are passing on the gift of their magnificent example to these young people who are here today, studying in this school -- showing them that if they dream big enough, and work hard enough, and believe in themselves, that they can do and achieve some uncommon things in their lifetime….
"That is the core of my mission as first lady -- to share the gifts that come with life in the White House with as many of our young people as I possibly can find. That's why I've worked to make the White House a showcase of America's rich cultural life….
"The truth is, is that even though many….kids are living in Washington, D.C. and in cities across the country, just minutes away from the centers of culture and power and prestige, many of them feel like these resources are really miles away, very far beyond their reach. That's something that I felt growing up. "And my husband and I are determined to help to bridge that distance. It is critical that we begin to bridge that distance.
"We want to show these young people that they have a place in our world, in our museums, our theaters, our concert halls.... We want them to experience the richness of our nation's cultural heritage, one on one, up close and personal, not on TV. We want to show them that they can have a future in the arts community -- whether it's a hobby, or a profession, or simply as an appreciative observer….
"In the end, those efforts, and the performances we're enjoying today, and the work these artists do every day here in America and around the world -- all of that reminds us of a simple truth: that both individually and collectively, we all have a stake in the arts, every single one of us.
"And you don't need to be rich or powerful to lift your voice in song or get out of your seat and shake your groove thing. [Laughter.] You don't need to be a Van Gogh to paint a picture, or a Maya Angelou to write a poem. You don't need a Grammy or an Oscar or an Emmy to make your work on the cultural life of your community or your country a valuable one. "And ... people who might not speak a single word of the same language, who might not have a single shared experience, might still be drawn together when their hearts are lifted by the notes of a song, or their souls are stirred by a vision on a canvas. "That is the power of the arts -- to remind us of what we each have to offer, and what we all have in common; to help us understand our history and imagine our future; to give us hope in the moments of struggle; and to bring us together when nothing else will. That is what we celebrate here today.
Our First Lady understands that without Arts & Culture in our society, that we not only diminish hope for the future, but we also silence the voice of our youth, and creative minds no matter what their age may be. We salute the First Lady and her efforts in supporting all creative arts, and those who dream.