So can “Think Global, Act Local” be used in art?


Clarion Content friend and contributor, Catherine Howard, is on the first leg of her 13x13x13 journey to visit thirteen artists’ collectives in thirteen countries, exploring building art through community. She checks in from Berlin below with a topical quandary from her  journey.

Support her campaign here.

So can “Think Global, Act Local” be used in art?
by Catherine Howard

For me, “Think Global, Act Local” has generally had environmental connotations — used as justification for eating local foods or doing environmental clean-ups in your own neighborhood.  However, within 24 hours of being in Berlin, the phrase “Think Global, Act Local” had been dropped twice in reference to my project.  How interesting…  So let’s talk about it!

How can the arts be used as a tool for fostering small local changes that ultimately impact broader global relationships?

In my research, I ran across two great perspectives on this issue. Over at A Blade of Grass, Juliana Driever gives a great description of how art can be an “act local” force:

Art work that is in some sense local as I understand it, takes its actual location – its context – as its starting point, is grounded in lived experience, and its tangible, immediate conditions. Social art and self-taught art, might find common ground in this kind of site-specificity, taking localized concerns as a place to pick up and start making something. For both, context can be a medium and a message. Both kinds of work can also claim responsibility to a specific place, community, or issue (and not just for the standard duration of a biennial exhibition), and create a self-determined criteria of value, which is to say, the significance of the work is held in direct relationship to those who participate in it or with it.


Luis Gallardo pushes past the “Think Global, Act Local” paradigm and encourages us to think about how this concept can actually prepare businesses for sustainable growth through “Think Holistic, Act Personal.”

Simply put, global is too broad and undefined. It implies that we should standardize and lead from the center, so that we can better drive efficiencies that meet the burgeoning demands of local markets. This is in stark contrast with thinking holistically, which I define as the ability to take into account complex linkages and inter-connections in order to facilitate decision-making of the highest order.

Similar to thinking globally, acting locally does not touch upon the essence of human behavior—what we do or don’t do in response to change, challenge, and the status quo. Acting personal, however, mirrors human dynamics and the multi-dimensional profile of each individual. Act personal allows you to engineer communities, making messages and actions a relevant and timely response to the big picture needs of people.

In my experience, art opens people’s eyes to the world around them (and worlds that only exist in our brains) through colors, sounds, smells, touch, and by sparking emotional situations.  Art can poignantly pique one’s curiosity, and if we view art as a method for sparking people’s interest in engaging with the world around them, then perhaps the phrase “Think Global Impact, Act Creative Locally” could be applicable.

What do you think?  Is “Think Global, Act Local” an applicable categorization of how the arts can be used to spark social change?  

Oooh, even better!  Fill in the blanks of “Think [  ], Act [  ]” and comment below with your pithy phrase for the relationship between the arts and social change!

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