Two Polar Bears and a Dragon: How might art help build sustainable communities?

04/16/2013 § Leave a comment

By Julia Denison

In my years as fine arts student at IU, my extracurricular attempts to merge sustainability and art often led me to create works that utilized recycled goods as a primary art material or directly illustrated sustainability topics. Recently, however, I have been learning about the role that art of any form can play in sustainability efforts.

innerdoorsPublic art, for instance, has the power to help people within any community develop a shared sense of identity, and this shared identity is a necessary element in the building of sustainable neighborhood or city. Regardless of economic or social barriers that may exist between groups, public art, or art that is specifically for and available to the public, offers itself up as something all community members can claim as their own. Over time, a large mural or sculpture can become part of what makes people proud of where they live. If people believe their community is unique in some way, they may be more likely to treat it with respect. This might inspire them to work towards improving overall quality of life, which could even mean supporting a new farmers market, expanding and protecting green space, or setting stricter standards for waste management.

Left SideMy personal attempt to contribute to such an effort came in January, when I painted a mural in an elementary school in Nashville, TN. Re-zoning had resulted in a new school population comprised of students from two adjacent, but different neighborhoods, and I was charged with the task of creating imagery that celebrated the uniqueness of each while reinforcing a oneness within the student body. The polar bears and the dragon seen here are pieces of sculptural art that have been objects of pride in the two neighborhoods for many years. The eagle is the school mascot and the flags acknowledge the many countries represented by the student body. The rest of the mural blends significant buildings and landmarks into an Right Wallimaginative map and skyline of the city of Nashville. By highlighting sculptural and architectural neighborhood icons within the context of the entire city, my hope is that the mural will inspire students to see the uniqueness of their community in a larger, more colorful way.

Julia Denison is a former IU student who served as a member of Volunteers in Sustainability and a representative to the Student Sustainability Council. She can be reached at

This Week in Sustainability 4.1.13

04/01/2013 § Leave a comment

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Upcoming events are listed in a weekly email bulletin and on our calendar. If you do not receive our weekly email and would like to, please email to subscribe.

Select ongoing events and opportunities are highlighted in our weekly email, while the full list of items are available on this weekly blog post. Instructions for submitting an item to either our calendar or blog are at the end of this post.

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Featured news, ongoing events, and opportunities: 

Graduate Student Sustainability Research Development Grants Available (posted 3/25)
Application Deadline: Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Description: This program provides opportunities for Indiana University graduate students to develop new research programs related to sustainability. The grant program, sponsored by the IU Office of Sustainability, University Graduate School, School of Public Health, and the Integrated Program in the Environment, awards grants up to $10,000 to any graduate student from the IU Bloomington campus.  Funds may be applied to graduate student fellowships (up to $5,000) as well as field, laboratory, computational, or library research.  Both individual applicants and teams of graduate student are encouraged to apply. Priority will be given to high-quality interdisciplinary projects that include participants from multiple disciplines.
Questions: For more information about the grant program and information on how to apply, click here.  To learn more about sustainability initiatives at Indiana University, click here.  Any questions can be directed to Emily Rex, at

“Where Does Our Food Come From?” Farm Internship 2013 (posted 3/25)
Application Deadline : Monday, April 15, 2013
Description: Work and learn about small-scale local market intensive farming and food distribution on Schacht Farm in Bloomington.  Students will keep a field journal, and write presentation about their experiences, while participating in all aspects of farm work, including: pasture broiler chickens, pasture hens and hogs, CSA operation, and Farmer’s market sales.  This internship counts towards the new Minor in Food Studies Anthropology, with up to 6 credits available. Hours are variable depending on the number of credits. There will be 2 summer sessions: 1. 8 weeks from May 7 – June 28 and 2. 6 weeks from May 7 to June 14.
Questions: For more information or an application, click here, or contact Professor Richard Wilk at: or 855-3901.

The Office of Sustainability at the College of Charleston Summer 2013 Internships (posted 4/1)
Application Deadline : Friday, April 5, 2013
Description: Two paid internships are available (one graduate, one undergraduate) are available for the summer of 2013 at the College of Charleston.  The full time 30 hours per week internships run from June 3 to August 9, 2013.  This program is looking for motivated and dedicated students who have a passion for sustainability and are seeking to work on initiatives within this subject of interest.  Interns will work with campus associates and community members to strengthen the Office’s relationship with the Charleston community.  Possible projects include: Sustainable Greek, Orientation and New Student Outreach, Residence Life Programming, Waste and Energy.
To Apply: Please send a resume, 2 professional references and a letter of intent why you want to work for the Office, how your skills and experiences make you a good candidate for this position and what you wish to work on during your time with us.  All of this information can be sent to by 5pm on Friday, April 5, 2013.  Interviews will take place in person or via Skype during the week of April 15, 2013.
Questions: For more information or an application, contact: .

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