Sustainable and Zero-Waste Works in Diverse Media by the Artivists

APRIL 3 – 28, 2023

Curatorial Statement by: Dianna LaTerra (‘23, Co-President) and Maya Whitaker (‘23, Co-President & Founder of the Artivists)

[Sustain]ance addresses the fraught relationship between sustainability and the arts, with every work made from almost exclusively recycled, foraged, or repurposed items. The works are united through the common goals of reassigning value to devalued materials, and investigating how unconventional resources have untapped potential. 

The Artivists Collective for socially engaged art at WFU focuses on creating positive social change through the arts. Through [Sustain]ance, we attempt to bring awareness and prompt solutions to the issue of sustainability in society, the art world, and our own campus. Most of our materials were sourced from the music department, the art department, the theater department, and the waste management team in facilities and was made possible by our Partnership with the Office of Sustainability. Furthermore, this show explores the nature of consumerism in its holistic definition, touching on themes of overproduction, consumption, and the commodification of human necessities and non-necessities. 

The works “Possessions” by Sydney Aikens and “Veiled Remains” by Elise Young are collages made up of repurposed discarded materials. “Possessions” is composed of cardboard, bubble wrap, and tissue paper. The use of these materials showcases how items commonly labeled as “trash” can be made beautiful and valuable through the arts. “Veiled Remains”, however, points out that the art world itself is a producer of waste, as the image is composed solely from dark room prints that had been discarded from a class. Other works are inspired by the environment itself and the relationship between nature and the human experience. “Peaks and Valleys” by Maya Whitaker looks at the similarities between the human body and the natural world, questioning how separate the two can be. “Jellyfish and Plastic Bags: Deceiving Marine Life” by Fina Dooley honors the intricate life forms of the underwater creatures, while also incorporating plastic bags as a material to create a dichotomy between natural beauty and the danger imposed by human actions. 

As a collective, our work also centers around community-building and collaboration. The communal work “The Ground Beneath Our Feet” united music, dance, art, and sustainability in its creation. Gretchen Castelloe led the Artivists in a movement exploration inspired by nature, created by dipping our feet into foraged paints made from clay, charcoal, and coffee grounds. The sound from “Allowed to Settle” by Dianna LaTerra, led us through our movements and inspired the motions made visible on the paper. Another work made by the collective invites the viewer to become a collaborator. The cloth piece “Patchworked Identities” is made of recycled materials sourced from the Office of Sustainability and other student donations. The fast fashion industry is causing immense harm to our planet, and the demand for mass produced items typically involves the use of child labor or dangerous working conditions. We invite viewers of the work to add their own hand print to the piece, investigating the relationship between one’s own personal identity and the oppressed identities of the hidden laborers who create the textiles that we use to style ourselves. As the work becomes tarnished through our collective action, the piece becomes representative of the power the actions of society holds, whether it be to create positive or negative change. We hope the viewer considers how their own environmental choices are a small part of a massive system. 

While our works are just one step towards sustainable art production, The Artivists hope that our show brings awareness and inspires people to reflect on how we interact with sustainability, and conversely, unsustainability in our daily lives. 

The Artivists include: 

Sydney Aikens (‘25), Gretchen Castelloe (‘23), Fina Dooley (‘26), Joelle Hardy (’24), Dianna LaTerra (‘23), Roxie Ray (‘23), Gillian Rodriguez (‘23), Jackie Sparnicht (‘24), Sofia Trujillo (‘25), Una Wilson (‘24), Maya Whitaker (‘23), & Elise Young (‘23).


Thursday, April 6 @ 5-7PM

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