Migrate Art
JUXTAPOZ|Fall 2021
Simon Butler on Foundational Change
Simon Butler

Anyone reading this cleaves to the belief that art and culture have the power to directly change the world, and Migrate Art chooses to take extra steps that actively inspire us all to address and galvanize engagement with the humanitarian issues of our time. We have proven that it is possible to blend the worlds of art and charity to create a hopeful, motivating force, though indeed, these two worlds have their own inherent limits and restrictions.

Art often speaks about political and social issues but neglects to reciprocate those sources of inspiration, resulting in a lopsided beneficiary. I have often seen successful western artists motivated by humanitarian needs without paying demonstrable dues to recompense their source of motivation. With extra consideration, it is possible for art to complete the journey and bridge the gap between the people who initially inspired the work and the compensation that comes from the final sale.

Charity, however, can be mired in mistrust, and is often referred to as “the third sector,” as if the normal rules of business do not apply. This attitude is extremely limiting, and we have found ourselves in a situation where many charities are opaque, dull, and uninspiring. By focusing on creativity and united art, charity, and entrepreneurism, Migrate Art has successfully developed a more interactive partnership where charitable organizations maintain creativity and excitement, spurring connection, instead of simply soliciting a $10 donation monthly. As of 2020, there are over 80 million displaced people in the world, that is, 1% of the world’s population doesn’t have a place to call home. Creative art allows us to raise money and also share these folks’ stories, which in turn, creates compassion and empathy with others all over the world.

In 2016, I first visited the Calais Jungle refugee camp in France, a makeshift campsite on the edge of Calais that was home to almost 10,000 displaced people. An infamous patch of land, UK media was full of stories about “swarms of migrants” trying to reach Britain. As someone skeptical of what appeared in the news, I decided to go and visit the camp myself.

I saw a very different side, a home to people from all over the globe, from Iran to South Sudan, and despite dreadful living conditions, a site rich in culture. Cafes, a school, a church, and a theatre existed within a place of transience, people arriving or leaving every day, resulting in an incomparably unique environment. The warmth of the people I met was a stark contrast to the unfriendliness of many people back in London who had every convenience. I decided to find a way to bridge these two worlds, using my experience and contacts in the art world to help the people in Calais.

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