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“Artistic works help process knowledge  and directly impact the emotional and physical centers of both the practitioner and the audience. As such, the arts also work for the promotion of understanding."
-Tom Wessels, in The Myth of Progress

“Artists are in a unique position to effect environmental changes because they can synthesize new ideas and communicate connections among many disciplines. ... Artists, society’s most sensitive observers of internal and external realities, can help us to understand and renew our vital connections to the earth.”

-Barbara Matilsky, in Fragile Ecologies

Although most people probably associate sustainability with science, engineering, and architecture, the quotes above reveal the important relationships between sustainability studies and the arts. In SUST 101, students complete an art project to explore sustainability messages through creative means of expression. Selections of some of our students' best eARTh works are shown below to exemplify the interdisciplinary nature of RWU's SUST program.


Jessica Sasso, 2011, Color Digital Imagesart_jess_sasso

By Veronica Pesak  (2011) 
Silky serpentine ribbons
Twisting and sliding
Shimmering on the surface
It gleams in the sun
Then grips
The birds, fish and other creatures as
They breathe their last breath
After the spill

Keith Doucot, 2011, Ink on Vellumkeith_doucot

Keith's description of his work:
                  "I created an abstract graph on each of three identically sized sheets of vellum that, when layered on top of each other, show some of the main relationships within the complex socioeconomic structure that relate to sustainability. The first layer represents the trend of increased environmental degradation and overuse of the earth’s limited supply of natural resources. The line starts as a steady, high horizontal line indicating the steady availability of resources prior to the Industrial Revolution, and contains trees, mountains and blue skies, symbolic of this natural existence. The content of the line becomes a river as the line “flows” sharply downward to a point where nothing remains other than the stumps of trees that have been leveled to make room for developed of the built environment, where growth is fueled by consumption of fossil fuels. The second layer has two simple, bold lines representing the growth of the income gap between the upper and lower classes. As the income and wealth of the upper class continues to grow, the income of the lower class remains leveled as the members of that class struggle to obtain the bare minimum for their survival, as indicated by the people struggling to hold up the line of the lower class. The last layer of the piece is representative of the GDP graph that inspired the project. The line is much thicker than the lines used in the other layers of the project, symbolic of how important the dollar signs that make the inside of the line are to society as an indicator of how successful we are as a nation. The line is supported by an overweight businessman, symbolic of the “big business” that contributes to the growth of GDP.”


Lauren Pike, 2013, Mixed Media Turtle Sculptures, Digital Color Image of Installation Viewlauren_pike


Ellis Lehner, 2010, Ink on Wooden Skateboardsellis_lehner


Kelly Meacham, 2010, Violin Performance with Video

Kelly's description of her work:
                       “As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once stated, ‘Music is the universal language of mankind.’  Music connects all dialects and cultures whether it is felt, taught, written, or heard. Whether playing for fun or playing for an audience, music is a direct reflection of your state of mind and feelings.  These feelings can also be expressed without knowing the names of the notes you are playing.  … Because music is the universal language I felt that it would be a great way to convey the negative effects of deforestation to the audience.”

Peter Romains, 2011, Pencil


Mitchell Porter, 2013, Pencilmitchell_porter

Mitchell's description of his work:
           “One of the things that I believe is that carelessness is an intrinsic part of modern society. Whether it’s just absentmindedly misplacing an object, or creating an accident that causes lots of damage, such as by texting while driving, the underlying cause is carelessness. I made an artwork that ties carelessness to sustainability and how we use environmental resources.          
            My political cartoon shows how people as a society behave in terms of using resources. In it, a group of people, depicted as black silhouettes on the ground full of wasteful debris, rush towards a tree, which is a symbol of all the forms of natural resources. However, a tiny vine prevents their progress. There is no way around this vine, so the person in the lead is using a pair of scissors to cut it. However the vine is holding up a giant weight suspended above the crowd of people. When the vine is cut, the weight will fall, crushing most of the people underneath it. Most of the people do not notice the great weight hanging over their heads because they are so intent on getting to the natural resources. The few people who do notice the weight are unable to fight against the crowd, unable to stop the vine being cut. This is a symbol of how humanity as a whole is careless, while the individual might not be.          
            The weight itself has several symbols in it, each representing a different way that humanity’s carelessness is going to hurt it. One half of the weigh is a missile, a somewhat obvious symbol representing nuclear weapons and how we specifically engineered something that could guarantee our own destruction. The other half of the weight is a tree, which itself is split into two parts. One half of the tree is alive; the other half of the tree is dead. This represents two separate threats to humanity. The living portion represents threats nature by nature in response to our own actions, such as the spread of invasive species, either intentionally or through carelessness. The dead portion of the tree represents the destruction of resources. If humanity uses up all the earth’s resources, we will have nothing to live on. These three parts, the missile and two different halves of the tree, symbolize the different ways humanity could potentially crush itself.”

Lauren Bombara, 2011, Plastic Bottles and Light Bulb Fixturelauren_bombara



And Nobody Cares

By Kyle Randall (2014)

The mighty polar bear, lord of the Arctic, marches across the frozen land it calls home.  As it searches for food, the land around it is consumed by the surrounding water.
Eventually the bear is stranded, cornered and drowned, falling prey to the rushing, icy waves.
And nobody cares.
The playful dolphin zooms through the water and leaps through the air, playing the game of life.
Slowly it absorbs the unnatural chemicals in the water and becomes entangled in the waste of men.  Slowly it suffocates; it is a piece knocked off the board of the world.
And nobody cares.
The tiny lemur leaps blissfully through the branches with its brothers and sisters.
The axes and machines chopped through the forest, decimating their homes and leaving them stranded. As its family is left with nowhere to hide, the predators of the forest prey upon them.
And nobody cares.
The great elephant travels across the plains, following the paths created through centuries.
It is met with a blast straight through its skull as men attempt to loot its body for riches.  It
is left, nearly fully intact, to rot until the scavengers set upon it.
And nobody cares.
The fuzzy panda lumbers through the woods enjoying the bamboo it has eaten its entire life.
The same trees that provide life for the panda are harvested, torn apart for oils used for manufactured beauty.  The panda is left with nothing and eventually collapses in starvation.  False beauty masks harsh destruction, and ugly death.
And nobody cares.
The Siberian Tiger slinks through the snow covered trees, moving with grace and dignity.
It is chased through forest, stalked in its own home.  The hunter becomes the prey of men looking for sport.
The bullet pierces its body and the tiger falls, bleeding out.  The white snow running red.
And nobody cares.
The man pauses to look at the world around him.  The poison in the air grows only stronger as humans continue to dump their waste on the world with no regard for anything but green slips of paper.  The air lacks the sounds of the animals, a deathly quiet hovering over the planet. The poisons choke him, his pollutions destroy him, leaving him lying in a grave, a grave he himself helped to create.  As he falls alongside those he helped to bury,
Nobody was left to care.