Diving Into Artivism
I entered college with a declared major of environmental science. I wore my mission to do my part to help “save the world” like a warm hug as I escaped New Jersey and landed on the sun-drenched campus of the University of Miami.
I might have looked closer at the school’s marine biology program and followed my love of the water had the mathematics and science courses not been such a disruption for my verbal brain.
It was a tough lesson — but thankfully one learned early enough to switch paths — that it’s not always a good idea to declare a major out of the gate. I realized I could love the earth and want to spread good messaging about the need to sustain it, but from a different approach. If I was not to join the scientists, I could interview them.
After 25 years of research, interviews and writing about countless topics, many have addressed environmental impact. And now, I’m faced with having to dive in and learn completely new aspects of environmentalism thanks to my 8-year-old daughter, Ella Grace Helton’s, interest in ridding our community of trash (especially single-use plastic) and educating about how the delicate health of our ocean affects EVERYTHING.
She graduated Ocean Heroes Network boot camp in June as an ocean hero. The premise: “...we see a world in which our most powerful leaders — youth — have the tools and resources to grow, thrive, and work together to restore the health of our ocean.”
Ella gets mad when she sees trash. So she picks a lot of it up. We discovered the Litterati app during boot camp, where she can track her efforts. In less than one sweltering June afternoon hour, she collected almost 100 pieces of trash, mostly plastic and related to takeout food.
Concurrently to flowing into boot camp, Ella was creating beautiful chalk pastel original art. After sharing some on social media, comments came with interest in purchasing her originals. Light bulb moment!
Similar to how giving back was the cornerstone of Ella Bella Beads — our small mom-and-daughter business — we realized we could use Ella’s art to help her ocean hero campaign.
Ideas are aplenty, and perhaps in the time between writing and publication of this article, some of them will become more clear. But I’m now entering the entirely new world of artivism — using art for activism. We learned this concept during boot camp.
Seems Ella’s efforts to effect change will involve learning how to scan, reproduce, frame, ship and share her art on merchandise. All with educational messaging and giving back.
Like her mama, the deep desire to help the earth and everything that depends on it is manifesting in its own unique way.
— Lee Nessel
Ella’s Art & Acting Journey