SMOKE IN MY EYEZ: Artistically Protesting Climate Change
At the Neyborly event venue in Poet's Corner, local art springs to life at Ca$houtcollective's “Smoke In My Eyez,” an art festival celebrating young Bay Area artists. Purple lights and fun floral decorations surround artists' booths to illuminate their work, while a stage with a nature theme holds poetry readings and live musical performances. Walking through the event with my friends was an endlessly exciting experience that represented an immense variety of skills and talent. We admired jewelry and body art, spoke to artists selling stickers and prints, and sifted through vintage clothes and original designs brought in by local vendors. As we explored, we even got to hear amazing original music and spoken word performed by Cal students and other musicians. All of the art that was displayed and sold celebrated nature and Earth in one way or another, thus reflecting the theme of the event: artistic climate activism.
Given the theme of the festival, the displayed works all shed light on the value of the natural world in different ways. Crystal jewelry sold by Lil Amethyst drew attention to the beauty of rocks and minerals, while the local landscape was artistically represented with original Bay Area apparel. At “Smoke In My Eyez,” enhancing the importance of nature through visual art, fashion, jewelry, and music created awareness of the many issues affecting our planet.
Not only were visitors able to view and purchase the art, but engaging with the vendors themselves was also extremely accessible. This dynamic environment fostered a more direct relationship between local artists and patrons and literally gave creativity a voice. I came out of this event Instagram-stalking a ridiculous amount of people I met, and my friends and I truly felt as though we reached a better understanding of the Bay Area art world, which I think is so invaluable. By engaging with local art, we can gain insight on specific ideas or problems circulating in our community that are often overlooked in favor of national or global issues.
For more information on the event, I reached out to Ca$houtcollective for an interview. Camila Ceja and Ann Liu, the organizers behind “Smoke In My Eyez,” are Bay Area natives currently studying at Cal. Ceja, an English and Ethnic Studies major, enjoys uplifting local artistic movements as well as writing poetry about her experience as a first-gen of immigrants. Liu creates and sells visual art inspired by divine femininity under the name Acrylic Paint Shorty, and she currently studies Art and Media Studies.
Ceja and Liu explained that growing up in the Bay Area among so many local artists and musicians inspired them to organize an art festival of their own. However, what makes “Smoke In My Eyez” stand out from other events is the common theme of protest and celebrating the Earth with art.
“Inspired by the many current issues affecting our planet, we decided to base our event on using art as a form of climate activism. Given the recent fires, we decided to title our event ‘Smoke in my Eyez,’” they wrote in response to an email I sent them about their event.
As an artistic collective, Ca$houtcollective aims to illuminate pressing issues through art and give local artists a community and platform to share their work. "We hope that our events are effective in spreading consciousness and bringing a positive environment for the many people of Berkeley and the Bay area to find comfort in art and each other despite the many issues affecting our lives," Ceja and Liu stated.
Though the festival was geared toward audiences of all kinds in order to spark awareness of climate change through art, Ceja and Liu still aimed to give their fellow Cal students a stronger connection to the local art scene.
“We also wanted to show the school community the environment and beauty of the Bay Area, especially the community of local artists and musicians.” Both organizers agree that live events and festivals are ultimately the best way to unite an artistic community and give up and coming artists a platform.
After the success of their first festival, Ceja and Liu hinted at plans for another event in August.
“We hope to have more events soon, bringing consciousness to more issues we are surrounded with and giving a platform for the great community of artists and musicians here in the Bay and in Berkeley,” they said. Their passionate commitment to elevating local art and climate activism culminated admirably through “Smoke In My Eyez,” so I strongly recommend staying on the lookout for more from Ca$houtcollective.