This J-term, students who chose to participate in the experiential course ART 200:
Sustainable Art Processes, Respecting Nature through Creative Form, were given a special
opportunity to create a new type of art project. These non-art majors came together under
professor of design, Dr. Adrienne Schwarte, to create sustainable art, (also known as “eco-
art”) for a special sustainable art exhibition.
For many of the students, this was their very first art project.
The course required students to create two “natural form” projects from exclusively
natural, renewable or recycled materials, while emphasizing creativity and awareness for
“The challenge in this course was that students had to grasp the large concepts of
sustainability and art within a three-week timeframe and not only understand it, but put it
into practice by creating works of art at the same time,” Schwarte said.
Many students who previously had little experience with art or with raising
environmental awareness had to quickly gain a working knowledge of both of these fields,
in order to produce useful works of art.
Some might think that working with students unfamiliar to creating art would be
stressful for both the professor and the students; however, Schwarte said that she found it
to be enjoyable.
“I always enjoy the experience of working with non-art majors,” Schwarte said. “The
students were willing, engaged and we had a good number of studio sessions that allowed
for time that I could work individually with each student on their projects and some of the
art majors in the course could lend a hand as well.”
Through the team effort, the J-term students were able to put together an art exhibition
that they were both proud of, as well as educational for the exhibit’s viewers, raising
The projects took a number of forms, as the students exercised their creative ability.
Sophomore Shelby Sparks made a “chandelier” out of Arizona brand green tea cans and an
old strand of Christmas lights.
“It’s really neat to see everyday items like that as an art form,” Sparks said. “My favorite
part of each project was that ‘aha’ moment of realizing what I could make out of the trash in
my dorm room kitchen. It was actually really exciting.”
Not only can sustainable art do much for raising awareness of environmental issues, it
has become a legitimate and more popular form of art recently.
Sustainable art is art that meets the Brundtland Commission’s definition of
sustainability, which is, “Development that meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
“Sustainable art should also draw awareness to an environmental issue and/or provide
commentary on human behavior related to the environment or our relationship with the
earth,” Schwarte said.
Overall, the students gained much from this experiential class.
“Sustainable art is an art form that raises awareness about the effects that humans have
on the planet, and makes a statement about those effects,” Spark said. “Also, sustainable
art is a great way to ‘save’ things that could just end up in a landfill forever and make
something beautiful and maybe even functional. The sustainable art J-term class definitely
had a lasting effect on me as far as environmental consciousness and concern.”
Furthermore, Schwarte felt that sustainable art has a firm place in the art of the future.
“I expect to see more and more artists engaging in sustainable art in the future as artists
are many times the harbingers of change in society,” Schwarte said. “I hope this class can
become a future course that can be offered as an art elective credit and I can teach it over
an entire semester, as the time would be invaluable for this course.”