Do Artists Have a Role To Play in Reaching the MDGs?

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By: Lisa Russell, Documentary Filmmaker and Co-Founder,

As the MDG Summit kicks off this week, there’s a lot of excitement about the role of social media in meeting the MDGs.  As co-founder of –a new media site uniting artists and activists for maternal health that allows users to make their own videos about maternal health– I am ecstatic to a part of it.  However, I’ve become very curious about what the maternal health and global health communities think the role of artists should be in the work of achieving the MDGs.

Are they involved?  Should they be involved?  If so, how are artists such as musicians, filmmakers, poets, etc getting involved in these conversations? These questions will be on my mind throughout the many activities and events I will be attending during this important week (including the many blog posts and reports I plan to write about them), and I hope they will be answered.

At the launch event held at the Soho Digital Art Gallery last Thursday where we kicked off our new media website focused on maternal health, a prominent maternal health expert said to me, “I work on this every day.  I know the statistics.  I see the photos.  I speak to the women.  And this is what makes me cry!”

The thisshe is referring to is the incredible talent that took a moment to share their reflections on maternal health through poetry and music:  a young man known as “Sean B.” – who is a national youth poetry champion –wrote and performed a poem based on Lynsey Addario’s heartbreaking photography spread on maternal mortality in Sierra Leone; a Muslim woman who performed a poem comparing the “stench of rape” to a “gutted fish’; a world-renowned emcee and hip hop artist who travels extensively around the world, performed a poem entitled “Invisible Women”; and a Grammy-winning singer sang a song so soulful, it vibrated and energized the gallery space.

This is exactly what the power of the arts is—the power to fill those undefined, unarticulated spaces in the heart and soul where statistics and soundbytes don’t always reach. This is the power I believe we—the artists in the creative industries–can bring to the MDG work; to hasten their achievement through impacting hearts and souls.

I would like to see more real, vibrant, long-lasting conversations between the various creative communities (not only celebrities, but other professional artists) and I hope to see a glimpse of those relationships this coming week.

Lisa Russell is an Emmy-award winning documentary filmmaker and co-founder of  Lisa will be a featured speaker at the UN Week Digital Media Lounge,  a special media guest at the TEDxChange event and will be blogging live from the Secretary General’s “Every Mother, Every Child” event where’s Maya Azucena will be performing.