Street art has come a long way from its 1980s beginnings, when it began as an urban subculture of artistic daredevils spray-painting their imagery on subway cars and building façades in the thick of the night. Now, it’s one of the most popular and high-valued forms of contemporary art, and one of the most activistic. Leveraging their ability to reach one of the largest and most diverse audiences – anyone passing by – street artists are increasingly using their public works to address current issues, not the least of which is climate change.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York–based company Greenpoint Innovations, which works to improve global sustainability through the arts, designed a grant program to support street artists addressing the environment in their work. The result was a public art mural in New York City created by artist Federico Massa, also known as Iena Cruz, about the endemic biodiversity of one of the City’s most polluted waterways and its links to climate justice.
In this GLF Live, Massa and Greenpoint Innovations founder Stephen Donofrio spoke about the influence of the global street art community on public awareness and the impact that its collective messaging about climate change can have.
Federico “Iena Cruz” Massa is a Brooklyn-based globally recognized muralist, contemporary artist and set designer, originally from Milan. In the streets of Brooklyn’s rapidly changing Bushwick and Williamsburg neighborhoods, the public can see many of the large-scale, colorful, technically layered murals that have become Massa’s internationally acclaimed style. Animals are often featured and represent his strong beliefs in conservation. A Latin aesthetic inspires many works, evolving from an interest in the culture, food and art of Mexico. Massa’s art, both the murals and canvas works, fuses his skills as a large-scale painter and set designer, and evinces his love of nature, bold colors and decorative motifs. He plans to continue experimenting with these themes and techniques in evermore-complex artistic and commercial applications.
Stephen Donofrio is principal and founder of Greenpoint Innovations, a purposed-based company that integrates innovative technologies, the arts, and in-depth subject-matter expertise to contribute to a sustainable, resilient, and prosperous future. He is a seasoned climate change, carbon markets, and natural climate solutions expert. Over the past 15 years, he’s worked with leading organizations beginning with the Chicago Climate Exchange, a pioneering project that was North America’s only voluntary, legally binding greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and trading system for emission sources and offset projects in North America and Brazil. He then joined non-profit charity CDP North America (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), a global disclosure system to manage their environmental impacts where he led corporate climate, water, and forests disclosure for US and Canada. Since then, he has been Directing initiatives at DC-based non-profit Forest Trends that focus on voluntary carbon markets and agricultural commodity-driven deforestation. In more recent years, he has been using his powers, dollars and network for good by starting GreenPoint Innovations, which through its philanthropic arm of GreenPoint EARTH works to advance public awareness around climate change solutions by harnessing the power of public ‘Art + Purpose’. It serves as the company’s creative ‘art plus purpose’ hub to advance climate goals and nature-based solutions through public art and clean tech activations. In addition, GreenPoint Innovations has a platform that uses unmanned aircrafts (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, for conservation and sustainable land use by filming and constructing orthomosaic maps of forests and lands.