Sustainability and student art

Spring is at our doorstep, and student groups are hard at work promoting themes of growth and sustainability. One particular collaboration will feature an art show throughout April, and students have just a little more time to submit their work.

Art Show Organizer Kirk Rea hangs a student–submitted piece of art at Food For Thought Cafe on campus. Photo by Riza Liu.
Art Show Organizer Kirk Rea hangs a student–submitted piece of art at Food For Thought Cafe on campus. Photo by Riza Liu.

Spring is at our doorstep, and student groups are hard at work promoting themes of growth and sustainability. One particular collaboration will feature an art show throughout April, and students have just a little more time to submit their work.

The exhibition, titled “Needs, Struggles, and Hope,” will show at the Food For Thought Cafe in the basement of Smith Memorial Student Union, kicking off with a reception and design charette on Tuesday, April 9.

Developed collaboratively by the Environmental Club, the Ecological Restoration Guild and the Sustainability Leadership Center, the show is part of a greater Earth Day celebration and building project throughout Portland.

“Earth Days is a progressive coalition of student groups centered around Earth Day to talk about social sustainability,” said Kirk Rea, Environmental Club coordinator and an art practice senior. “This art show is just one part of that effort. We want this to be a sustainability art show, and we’re hoping for performance as well.”

Food For Thought staff will cater the reception with free food, and a to-be-announced live performer will provide music. Patrons will have an hour to look at art and enjoy refreshments before the design charette takes place.

The charette, hosted by Rea and the Environmental Club, will be an opportunity for the group to detail their plans for restoration projects across campus.

“We’ll be presenting our ideas, seeking feedback and getting suggestions from the community,” Rea said. “We’re also looking for more participation from the student body. This is sort of an outreach effort.”

These efforts include work in the community orchard and repair and restoration projects, including the space between SMSU and Cramer Hall, in front of SMSU and by the Millar Library. These projects will be part of a greater collective of placemaking projects across Portland in a citywide event called the Village Building Convergence, hosted by the nonprofit group City Repair.

“Neighborhoods will participate in projects such as developing natural buildings and creating community gardens,” Rea said. “We’re hoping to make the university’s involvement with Convergence a consistent project. We’re looking to make it as accessible as possible, which is why we’re doing this design charette. We want our work in the community to be transparent and visible.”

For the art show, the Environmental Club is seeking to curate works with a sustainability theme.

Shilo George, a student in the Postsecondary Adult and Continuing Education program in the university’s Graduate School of Education, explained that Rea’s interest in a more community-centric approach inspired her interest in contributing artwork.

“One thing that inspired me to do this, in talking to Kirk, was that he was looking to get away from the typical work about sustainability,” she said. “He expressed wanting to think out of the box. For me, ‘Needs, Struggles, and Hope’ means community building. Most people think about sustainability in the global sense, but I also think sustainability of the community is very important.”

For George, an expression of sustainability meant collaborative artwork made with her friends and their children.

“We were at the park, and I handed them each a sheet of paper,” she explained. “I told them a little bit about the theme and let them use their imagination[s]. We had conversation, and at times we just focused on our work. No one was worried about artistic skill. We just had a fun and relaxing time together.”

For her contribution to the exhibition, George plans to bring together her friends’ work into a cohesive whole. In doing so, she seeks to put the concept of community building into an
aesthetic context.

“I have all of the pieces on my art desk arranged in a grid,” she said. “I think I’m going to put them onto a larger piece of paper, and paint over them in parts with watercolor. There are links and themes between them that I would like to emphasize, and it will be my contribution to integrate them.”

PSU Environmental Club, Ecological Restoration Guild and Food for Thought Cafe present
Needs, Stuggles, and Hope: Reception and Design Charette
Food For Thought Cafe, Smith Memorial Student Union
Opening reception Tuesday, April 9, 5:30–7:30 p.m.
On view through April

The overarching event will be a precursor to the Convergence event, which is scheduled to run May 24–June 2. Rea hopes to encourage more community involvement in that event, in addition to his club’s overall goals of promoting community gardening.

“It’ll be summer…and we’ll be able to get dirty working with plants, and spend a little time with nature,” Rea said.

The time for submissions has just about ended, but Rea’s group will be accepting submissions through tomorrow, Friday, April 5.

Submissions can be delivered to the Environmental Club’s community space in SMSU 28 or by email at [email protected]

George, for her part, expressed an interest in seeing other students’ visions joining her own and that of her friends.

“I can’t wait to see the other work being shown,” she said. “It’s exciting to learn how others envisioned the theme. I’ll love to see how this turns out, and to be involved in more collaborations in the future.”