Activist art exhibits promote sustainability for Earth Week

Geneseo Environmental Organization is celebrating Earth Week with two art installations. The Extinct Animals Exhibit (above) and the compost exhibit aim to bring environmental awareness to the campus. (Annalee Bainnson/Assoc. Photo Editor)

If you passed by or stopped in the MacVittie College Union this past week, you probably noticed the eye-opening exhibits located in or around the area. 

Whether it was the paper tombstones in front of the gazebo or the stacked trash cans in the middle of the Union, you might have been wondering why they were there. 

These exhibits, along with other events during the week, are efforts by environmental groups on campus to promote Earth Week and the environmental problems we currently face. These art demonstrations illustrate two separate threats facing the Earth and our current lifestyle. 

The Extinct Animals Exhibit in front of the gazebo emphasizes the importance of protecting endangered species. The exhibition is essentially a lineup of paper gravestones, each portraying varied species and genus names of animals from different habitats. It's hard to predict just how many species are going extinct because there are still so many that have not been discovered by scientists, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. 

The paper tombstones on the gazebo lawn roughly show the amount of species that go extinct every week. The species featured are all animals that have already gone extinct, such as the Brasilia Burrowing Mouse—which went extinct in 1960—or the Christmas Island Shrew—which went extinct in 1985. 

The gravestones were set up and created by the Geneseo Environmental Organization club on campus, which promotes environmentally friendly practices on campus. GEO co-president and geography major senior Victoria Roberts was optimistic about the potential response to the exhibit.

“Hopefully [the Extinct Animals Exhibit] raises awareness that the Environmental Protection Agency, and the protection laws for extinct species are really important and people will support it and realize how important it is,” Roberts said.

In addition to this exhibit, there was a compost sculpture placed in the Union. The sculpture was created to help students visualize how much trash the average American generates. 

“We’re trying to raise awareness that we have composting workshops on campus through the Office of Sustainability,” Roberts said. “We’re also trying to show that composting is a really great thing and it’s super easy.” 

The sculpture is made up of empty garbage cans stacked on top of each other to compare the average annual trash output of a typical American versus the annual trash output of an individual who recycles and composts. As you can guess, the side of the sculpture that represents the latter is significantly smaller. The other side, on the other hand, is about three times as big.

The trash cans were also on display during Geneseo’s Campus Canvas, an artistic festival on campus from two weeks prior. 

“I think a lot of people were staring at the [trash exhibit during Campus Canvas],” Roberts said. “It’s not pretty, but I think it gets the point across.” 

Overall, with the help of the Office of Sustainability and other organizations on campus, GEO strived for their Earth Week programs to make a difference in the campus community. 

“I really hope that these art exhibits draw attention to the environmental problems and in a visually appealing way draw attention to environmental issues,” Roberts said. “I also hope that they grab people’s attention and alert them to what’s happening on campus and globally around the world … and gets them psyched about Earth Week.” 

Multiple events are to be held throughout the rest of Earth Week; be sure to check out these intriguing exhibits before they’re gone.