Do you use cobalt arsenate to make violet paint? Or maybe you've inhaled mercury fumes lately while developing your photographs. How's that lead-based make-up working out for your acting troupe? Castrated any boy sopranos for the church choir recently? Still tickling the ivories?
I pray that some of you don't understand all these examples. The truth is that although we make art to give beauty and meaning to our lives, in the past is was often produced at the cost of our lives, our sanity and our world. Things are different now. Producers of our supplies test products for safety. Even our toddlers' chalk and crayons have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) available on-line. But we cannot give all the responsibility to the companies we frequent.
Call it "going green." Call it environmental awareness. Call it just plain old common sense. Look at your art, how you do it, where you do it, where you perform it, how you sell it. Are you acting in a environmentally responsible manner? Have you ever even considered that you should? What changes can you make? Change the lightening in your studio? Recycle paper and plastic? Is there a way to reduce packing of your work when you ship it? Is there a letter you need to write to a manufacturer or an elected politician?
Do some research. Read some articles. Learn what's out there. For whatever form of art you create, there is someone looking at its impact on our world. If there isn't yet, then perhaps you are the one to begin. Recognize that we no longer have to pollute and poison to create beauty and meaning in our world. We can create beauty and meaning and leave not just an artistic legacy but also a better, safer world where our children can safely create.
(This article originally appeared in roughly the same form in the June 2013 Creativity Coaching Association newsletter.)