Taught by Clark Kellogg, Haas Artist-in-Residence and Faculty Lead of the Innovation, Creativity and Design Practice, “Sustainability, Art, and Business” course is designed to create a persistent, artful presence of sustainability for the greater Haas and Berkeley Community. It was not until I spent my Wednesday mornings in the Innovation Lab – where the class was held – that I realized how diverse art can be, and what positive emotions sustainability issues can bring.

During the semester, we executed a three-step strategy of researching, designing and executing public art and design projects. The artworks were made in both digital and physical form, exploring the meaning of sustainability and the human response to global warming. Our first project was about data visualization – to make sustainability visible and tangible. Each of us was asked to do research on data points about any aspect of sustainability. After research, we were guided to design a way to present that data for public consumption and make a first-pass prototype of our idea. I was shocked by how creative and energetic everybody was! One student painted the bubble fidget toy to reflect coral bleaching. Another student applied fast fashion data to a runaway idea where the models wear commercial waste like plastic rather than fine cloth. I, on the other hand, created a mini garden pointing to biodiversity with cardboard and cotton swabs. The projects presented showed how the physical experience of data and more performative approaches can help address large, sometimes abstract, societal challenges such as environmental change.

The class was productive but easygoing. Flashing back to the past three months, I surprisingly realized that I’ve already created 5 art pieces! Sometimes projects were well planned, such as the Chalk Talk project (see Humans of Haas: Clark Kellogg to learn more about Chalk Talk), but sometimes they were improvised. One day, I walked into the lab as usual but saw tables of stationeries and magazines. We were then given one hour to free play before the showcase. Although some people did the work with clear intention, I started from ambiguity, led by intuition and the desire to express myself. I believe that no matter what the final outcome was, at least I enjoyed the progress of exploration and my adventure with art and sustainability. Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” So, why not let our brain rest and play? Sometimes, we simply need a new way of thinking or reacting to discover unprecedented opportunities!

It was an unexpected amazing journey. I learned to alter my mindset to think about sustainability with joy instead of pure guilt and shame, opening my vision to a brighter future. Yet, however “artistic,” we must remind ourselves of the importance of research as well as trial and error. As Haas Lecturer Kellogg put it – the work is less about having the right answers and more about framing the right questions.

There will be a “Sustainability, Art & Business” one day public art gallery and performance showing on Wednesday, December 8th, 10:30 am to noon at the Innovation Lab, located at Memorial Stadium directly across the street from Haas. The exhibition captures the class’ work throughout the semester, including the special final projects that have yet to be presented. A living plant installation will include plants that can be taken home. Also, at 11:30 am, there will be a screening of a new video/music piece, “wxxfxx” created and presented by a special guest, Vasu Panicker. Make sure to stop by on Wednesday and see how art and sustainability collaborate!

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