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Revolutionizing Activism Through Art: Meet Brenna Quinlan

Brenna Quinlan is an Australian creator who shares her messages of sustainability and permaculture through her artwork. Through her cartoons and illustrations, she hopes to advance the climate change movement and make our world a better place for future generations.

Brenna is a breath of fresh air, especially in a world where our phones are filled with tweets about scary statistics or the constant narrative that the odds are against us. She highly believes in a positive, rather than a deficit-lens approach. Through her art, she empowers her audience and provide action-based solutions.

Udv9Rwbh_400x400Quinlan has been drawing since a young age. Her first introduction to classical art training experience was when she accompanied her mother to an adult art class. After continuing her passion for art in her university studies, she realized that the goal of hosting exhibitions as an artist felt quite empty. She wanted to make an impact. So, with her $60 Craigslist bike, Quinlan decided to bike a whopping 11 000 km to the Americas. For 2 years, she then volunteered at permaculture projects across South America. This experience made Quinlan undergo a shift in mindset. The idealistic dream of being an artist who hosted exhibitions in a gallery was now in the past. She realized she wants a completely immersive and humane experience where she can take care of her needs.

After doing a 2-year permaculture course in Chile, Quinlan returned to Australia and wondered how she can practice permaculture. She knocked on David Holmgren’s door, the originator of permaculture, and requested to be an intern. At that time, Holmgren was working on his book, “RetroSuburbia: The Downshifter's Guide to a Resilient Future”. Excitingly enough, Brenna was offered the incredible opportunity illustrate Holmgren’s book. 130 hand-drawn illustrations later, Brenna was able to pave her path to be the permaculture illustrator she is today.

Noteworthily, Brenna realized that permaculture lifestyle is “living regeneratively and not exactingly”. Permaculture lies on the 12 principles that Holmgren has identified. These principles include: produce no waste, design from patterns to details. Check out all 12 principles in Holmgren’s book, “Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability”.
A common theme in Brenna’s works is “imperfect environmentalism”. She acknowledges that living a carbon neutral lifestyle is difficult, especially living in our capitalistic system. By transforming our “all or nothing attitude”, Brenna validates any transformative step of any magnitude. You don’t need to grow your own garden to make a change. As Brenna says, “I’ll take my activism without the side of guilt, thank you!”.

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EXJ7g6bUMAA3B7ZOne of many Quinlan’s famous posts on Instagram depicts life before, during, and after COVID-19. Brenna provides her audience with a vision of a “new normal”. Her art sparks inquiry and prompts viewers to ask, “Are our old ways truly efficient and sustainable?”.

Through such a creative visual medium, people like Brenna allow us to view our future through optimism and hope.

Listen to Brenna and Mangla’s conversation on our podcast:

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