Most Artists believe in their ability to create or support meaningful, positive change in society using their skills. That’s why many people take on side projects or devote time to helping nonprofits and charities in their work to solve societal problems.
Aside from using art as a medium to solve social problems, what other contributions can artists make for the future of development?
The Rise of Creative Economy
Celebrating the 2021 UN Year of Creative Economy has proven the fact that creative industries should be put front and center at a time as we need creative solutions for the world’s challenges.
This is a hard-won landmark for the creative industries. It recognizes and elevates the creative economy as an important tool for building a sustainable, inclusive, and equitable future.
“Creativity is the answer we have been looking for, and now is the time to embrace and invest in it.” -said Marisa Henderson, Chief of the Creative Economy Program, and Amy Shelver, Public Information Officer, UNCTAD
The announcement also acknowledges the role of creative industries in supporting entrepreneurship, stimulating innovation, and empowering people, including young people and women, while preserving and promoting cultural heritage and diversity.
With the creative industries spiraling across the globe, contemporary art has come into the big picture. The idea of spreading awareness, and using art as a donation or fundraising tactic is at the heart of what led to the creation of these works.
Here is a wonderful example of a youth-led organization dedicated to being an important mechanism for promoting values and delivering different voices of the young people living across Myanmar.
Introducing ‘Tan Phoe’ Art Exhibition
Founded in late 2019, Tan Phoe is composed mostly of recent graduates and university students of Myanmar. With the aim to help procure better understanding and tolerance within the community and to empower the youth, what started out as an art exhibition to promote young artists in Myanmar became a youth-led organization for the betterment of the Art community.
I met with the founder and project leader of ‘Tan Phoe’ and interviewed her about the details of the organization.
Q. How did the “Tan Phoe - Value” Art Exhibition and Project started?
Our Project Tan Phoe (means “Value” in Burmese) works towards a goal of emerging as an important vehicle for promoting different sorts of values and serving a medium to deliver the different voices of young people living across Myanmar. Through disclosing various ideas and perceptions of what is to be valuable for the young people themselves and their communities, we have set out our objectives as follows; ·
- To procure better understanding and tolerance within the community
- To empower the youth, and
- To have a deeper comprehension of freedom of expression in Myanmar.
Q. Can you please tell us some projects you have collaborated with other youth-led organizations in Myanmar and their impacts?
#tanphoeyetanphoe (Every Value is Valuable in Burmese)
First, we have collaborated with Teens and Dreams, Yangon University Volunteers Club, and Youth Society for Education for a Charity Art exhibition calling young people from 10 to 30 years old to submit their authentic creations in art, poetry, photography, and short story films under the theme: “How do you define your identity and value?” “What do you treasure in your life? Or What do you find most valuable?”.
We have received a lot of applicants for the Art exhibition and originally decided to hold it in March 2020 but due to COVID-19, our project has been put on hold for a while but as soon as the situation gets better, we will resume our offline event with the chosen candidates.
#TickYourPick Voter Education Series
As a first-time voter myself, in the interest of supporting Myanmar’s democratic transition, we collaborated with The Movement Myanmar to share Voter Education to all the citizens especially the First Time Voters through a series of animated videos titled “Tick Your Pick” which consists of 6 episodes. In order to have a clear understanding of democratic and electoral knowledge, these videos focus on the procedures of Myanmar’s Electoral System featuring Aung and May, the characters representing the first-time voters.
We also made a comic collaboration with Air Quality Yangon for the “Say NO to Trash Burning”, an online campaign to raise awareness on the current situation of air quality due to trash burning, why we need to stop burning trash, and alternative ways we can use to dispose of our trash instead of burning it. With the two mascots, ‘Dr. Air Bear’ of Air Quality Yangon and ‘Youth’ of Tan Phoe, we wrote a short article about five ways to reduce waste including the two episodes of a comic strip.
Q. What do you think about the future of the creative economy in Myanmar?
I think the Art Industry in Myanmar is becoming more powerful. It is astonishing to see that many young artists in Myanmar are leading the art industry, especially during the Military Coup. Another thing is that when we talk about Art, artists today began to recognize and address the social issues through different arts and the public also started to support them by participating in fundraising campaigns and events. With the rise and expansion of the social media landscape, messages communicated through art can be spread rapidly over the web which is a good thing.
Q. Why do you think Art is important for addressing social issues and freedom of expression?
- Art is a form of expression. For me, art has no rules. There are no guidelines to express ourselves. With a range of talent, artists are painting ideas that many choose to ignore, using their art as their voice to react to the injustices they see in this world.
- Art brings heart to heart closure. Especially during this spring revolution in Myanmar, Art plays a huge part in raising our voices when the military is sealing our rights. For the one willing to open up, art is like a medium for heart to heart connections which can create stronger bonds. And because of that, it is usually the reason for every successful social campaign.
Q. What is your current ongoing activity during this period?
We don’t have any projects collaborated with other organizations currently but we are working on drawing comics and illustrations which can advocate people and raise awareness of the present situation here in Myanmar.
Q. Any final remarks for the Chang-Mag Readers and fellow artists?
To the fellow artists and readers, art plays an important role in powering development and so no matter what happens, never stop creating Art.
Considering the founder’s Opinion to the status of creative economy in Myanmar, it could be said that a lot of emerging artists are showing potentials for becoming well-known in the industry as there has been an increase in personal arts. The artists have expressed more of their own reactions to situations. More than producing decorative pieces; they want to show things that matter to them.
Artists in Myanmar are collectively sharing their work on the Art for Freedom (Myanmar) Facebook group, which offers hundreds of downloadable protest art pieces. Many artworks are in red, all demonstrating the desire to restore justice and democracy.
The awareness about art has increased significantly amidst the uncertainties and with massive appreciation and support across the globe including more progress in development to flourish the industry, it is no doubt that the future of creative economy in Myanmar will rise than ever.
Art is controversial yet peaceful, simple yet bold. No matter what form art is manifested — be it through a painting, dance or music, it is up to the artist to choose how they express themselves, what expressions they’ll share, and which ones they will keep to themselves.
Next time, when you see an emerging art community or artists, make sure to support them. You will find out how even a few retweets, likes and shares have the ability to offer them encouragement but also boost their creditability. And most importantly, if you gain a like to such artworks, you can participate in their fundraising campaigns or commissions!
You can visit the Facebook page of “Tan Phoe – Value” Art exhibition here to learn more about its projects and contributions.