Earth Day Fair

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SAR teams creatively showcase sustainability through art

The SAR Art Installation returned to the E3 Earth Day Fair for the second year in a row. Despite the unusually warm weather, all seven SAR teams were eager to showcase their sustainability-themed art projects.

For a class assignment, each team created an art project based on the topic of their research projects. The assignment’s purpose was to get the different teams to creatively express the mission of their projects, said 2023 Co-Program Director Racquel Fox.

“The projects did really blow us away. Each team created a beautiful and very unique piece of art,” said Fox. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect, especially because they only had a couple of weeks to really create the art, but at the fair, they looked so beautiful, and the teams looked so proud to display their art.”

Some teams made their projects interactive, with fun activities that educated visitors while teaching them about campus sustainability. The Sustainable Food team transformed their booth into a miniature art studio, where visitors could create their own artwork using paint derived from beets, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, turmeric, and coffee. The team drew inspiration from another project which used food to tie-dye tote bags and wanted to showcase the many ways sustainable food can be used while including the opportunity for audience interaction, said Emily Cline, a co-leader of the team.

“People asked a lot of questions and wanted to learn more about food sustainability,” said Cline. “It was really exciting to see people engage with the paints because it gave us the opportunity to draw in people and tell them about our broader SAR project.”

For other teams, members lent their creative talents and opted for visually striking art pieces. For instance, Irrigation team member Hailey Sarmiento created a painting depicting Moore Hall’s transition from traditional turf to water-wise native plant species. Since many students see the work being done at Moore on their way to class, Sarmiento said the team wanted to show each stage of the conversion process, including replacing the water-expensive turf, the initial planting of native plant species, and the final product with fully-established plants.

“Essentially, this piece is a timeline of the project at Moore Hall,” said Sarmiento. “I wanted to make the third panel with the blooming flowers the most attractive to really highlight one of many benefits of native landscapes that some may overlook. I wanted people to think saving water with native plants is beautiful.”

This is the SAR art installation’s second year. Eric Ha, 2022 SAR Co-Communications Director, said the 2022 SAR Directors wanted to express sustainability through non-traditional mediums, as many can feel overwhelmed or exhausted by the same facts, graphs, and statistics, making it hard for them to remain engaged.

“In helping to curate this project, we believed that events and projects, such as this art fair, would be essential to accentuating the intersection of sustainability with other spheres on campus like art in order to truly capture the most student engagement and attention possible,” said Ha. “By investing in unique projects like this, we can not only capture attention for sustainability in untraditional domains to larger audiences but also explore how sustainability intersects and interacts with these different spaces that exist in our everyday lives.”

The success of last year’s art installation inspired the current SAR directors to bring back the art project assignment this year. 2023 Co-Program Director Julia Wu said this project was a fun assignment and took some of the pressure off of teams’ main research projects.

“The event was a huge success,” said Wu. “It gave our teams an opportunity to practice communicating their research and also an opportunity to learn to communicate our research to a broader audience through creative forms like collages and interactive exhibits.”