Central Michigan Life – Turning Trash into Art: Graphic Design Seniors Create Interactive Exhibit Highlighting Climate Change
The Central Michigan University Art Gallery currently features a cow made from recycled fast food containers, jackets made from fast fashion packaging, and a depiction of Earth’s potential future.
With these projects and many more set up in a maze, the exhibition takes you through five key sections related to climate change. These sections include Code Blue, Unforeseen Circumstances, It Doesn’t Matter, No Place Like Home, and the Doom Room.
This exhibit, titled “5°F,” is the culmination of an academic year full of climate change research, individual ideas and ongoing teamwork by 19 senior graphic design students.
“The significance of the name of the exhibit (5°F) is the global temperature ‘point of no return’,” reads the exhibit’s “About”. “Our goal is to educate as many people as possible about the damage humans are inflicting on our environment, the changes we are already seeing, experiencing, and how people can help now.”
Synthesis students used facts, trash, and their imaginations to create a depiction of society’s treatment of the environment to educate their audience.
Perry senior Symantha Taylor said the reason her class chose to focus on climate change and sustainability was the important role the environment plays in everyday life.
“There are still a lot of people who still think climate change is a joke,” Taylor said. “We wanted to break it down so people would understand that…climate change is all around us.”
In addition to constant teamwork among classmates, the exhibit features partnerships with the Museum of Cultural and Natural History and Mount Pleasant Elementary School. Visitors can interact with the art by making a plant to take home, writing on sticky notes and following QR codes throughout the gallery.
To leave a legacy, students worked with University Landscaping to donate 30 trees to CMU to create a carbon sink, a natural environment that absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases, on campus. . The class received funding for the trees from Tractor Supply Co. and a few people connected to the group members.
Saginaw senior Jasmine Southward said all of the collaborations and interactive exhibits help illustrate how everyone can play a part in making a difference.
“It’s not like a regular gallery show when you come in, you look around and then you leave,” Southward said. “We wanted to create an experience for people and trying to do that created extra work for us. However, I felt it was definitely worth it.”
David Stairs, a member of the graphic design faculty, said the aim of these collective exhibitions, which have been created every year since 2008, is to enable students to use their “skills as designers to attract attention on critical issues.
Stairs said the gallery was “full of stuff” due to the amount of research the class did. He said the students kept coming up with more ideas after the exhibition was planned.
“When I say this is the most complex exhibition the gallery has ever put on, that’s no exaggeration,” Stairs said. “It’s an indication of how much work has been done and how hard they’ve worked.”
The exhibit, which opened on April 2, will remain in the university’s art gallery until April 16. The University Art Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“(I hope) people come in and think, ‘Oh my God, this is so awesome! I didn’t know that information,'” Taylor said. “It’s a great take-out for them.”