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Five Ways to Celebrate Earth Day with the Arts

Updated: May 4, 2021

You Can't Spell Earth without Art

Earth Day is recognized annually on April 22 around the planet. This year mark the 51st Earth Day since its founding 1970. The advent of Earth Day also marked the beginnings of public awareness of the costs of environmental degradation.

In the decades prior, Americans were largely unaware of the link between pollution and poor public health and the health of the planet. In 1962, marine biologists Rachel Carson's best-selling book, Silent Spring brought attention to environmental issues. In 1970, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, founded the first Earth Day. Since he was first elected to the Senate in 1962, Nelson was determined to convince the federal government that the planet—and future generations—needed us to change our destructive ways.

On the first Earth Day, there were rallies were held in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other American cities. In Washington, D.C., thousands of people listened to singer Pete Seeger and others. In Philly, the Native American band Redbone performed for a crowd of 40,00 to 60,000 at Fairmount Park. Other held midnight "sing-ins, at one such event folk singer Tom Paxton debuted his song, "Whose Garden Was This." The song was recorded later that year by singer John Denver.

Artists have always used the arts to reflect their love of nature and its impact on their lives. For example, Ludwig van Beethoven was often inspired to compose from his walks in the Austrian countryside. His Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, also known as the "Pastoral Symphony", is a love song to nature. He composed in such a way that the orchestration reminds listeners the sounds that they would hear on a simple country day—the music gives the impression of rain, thunder, and bird calls. Another example, Antonio Vivaldi's (March 4, 1678 – July 28, 1741) Four Seasons, provides listeners with nature sounds including barking dogs, birds, and a babbling brook. The sounds are meant to tell the story of a changing seasons throughout a year and is based sonnets by the composer himself. For example, the text of spring begins:

I. Allegro--

Festive Spring has arrived,

The birds salute it with their happy song.

And the brooks, caressed by little Zephyrs,

Flow with a sweet murmur.

The sky is covered with a black mantle,

And thunder, and lightning, announce a storm.

When they are silent, the birds

Return to sing their lovely song.

The Earth has inspired not only musicians and poets, but visual artists have also found inspiration in then beauty and power of the Earth. Of course, there are landscape painters and artists who record animals, planets, and rock samples for science. There are also artists who create stunning art out of the environment itself. Land art, Earth art, or earthworks was part of the wider conceptual art movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Conceptual art is art where the idea or concept behind the work is more important than the finished work of art.