The World Bank Group Art Program, founded in 1997, works at the intersection of global development, social justice, and contemporary art. Through exhibitions and cultural programming both within World Bank Group offices and public-facing cultural institutions, the Art Program engages with contemporary artists to communicate the important development topics of our time.
Building on this experience, several recommendations are offered below for practitioners seeking to engage artists in their climate and disaster resilience projects.
This catalog has provided a variety of examples of how art can contribute to disaster and climate resilience. Before embarking on a project, it is necessary to decide what kind of impact your project will make. Consider reaching out to GFDRR Labs, the World Bank Art Program, or other organizations with relevant experience for inspiration or support.
Are you looking for artists that are representative of a certain background, or based in a certain city, country, or region? Are you looking for any artist across the globe as long as the artwork talks about specific themes? Or is your goal very specific? For example, you might be looking for an artist from the South Asia region who works in the form of large public art sculptures and is willing to produce a new work for you, using project data as inspiration.
Try to identify local organizations or partners that work with the kinds of artists, or in the regions, you are interested in. Be thorough and democratic in this process. Consider the source of the artist recommendations: galleries and museums tend to work with artists who are already established, whereas cultural nonprofits and curators are more in touch with artists working at a grassroots or emerging level. To build trust with the artists, be clear about why you want to engage with them specifically, and what the parameters of your project topic are.
Once you have identified appropriate artists, work through the details of your engagement according to the following touchpoints.
Confirm the number of artworks you are expecting, as well as their sizes and mediums. For community-based artworks, define the participants and your expectations for their involvement. Also explain to the artist(s) that your team will be curating the final collection or exhibition, and thus managing the ultimate messaging and the context in which the art is shown.
Provide a clear deadline for when the work needs to be shipped to you. Buffer this timeline, as there may be unforeseen shipping delays related to customs paperwork for artworks crossing borders, and as artists often work until the very last day they have to complete a project.
Confirm where the artwork will be shown (i.e., at a conference your project team is organizing, or at the organization headquarters, public space, local gallery, government office, etc.) and reach out to the appropriate facilities managers of that space to ensure that you will have what you need to safely and securely install the artwork.
Define whose responsibility it is to manage necessary shipment. If you are using an art courier service instead of a general shipment service, share that fact with the artist. Many artists prefer to work only with art-specific shipment services. Artists should get in touch with their respective ministries of culture when shipping works abroad to ensure that they have the needed paperwork.
Professional artists earn their livelihoods through their work and spend years developing their practice. If you have a line item in the budget that you can use to compensate artists, let them know what that is and find out if they are willing to work within that number. If you have no budget for artist compensation, make this clear from the beginning. You can then explore an engagement with the artist if he, she, or they would be willing to participate out of particular interest in the project, or in order to gain exposure to a potential new market for their work and gain recognition by an international institution.
Every engagement with an artist must be supported by a contractual agreement.
Where and how artists work can impact how much they are able to give and how much assistance they may need from you.
Some form collectives or workshops while others maintain single studios. Professionally, some are represented by galleries or nonprofit cultural spaces that raise awareness of their work, help them secure participation in widely seen exhibitions, or sell their work. Others function independently and act as their own representative. One important factor when identifying various artists best suited for your project is understanding what other support structures they are—or are not—a part of, since this may impact their suitability for your project.
For this reason, they are sometimes considered political dissidents by their governments or communities. This is not always an accurate, or bad, label. Depending on the scenario in which you are working (i.e., if you have identified an artist in an unstable or repressive context), pay very close attention to the political implications and possible risks the artist may be exposed to when involved in project work.