A photo of the team’s art installation in Spring 2016 via their tumblr page growupgreen.tumblr.com.


For the past academic year, a team at DFA Barnard|Columbia has spread excitement about sustainability and recycling through art. Their first project, an exhibit of students’ art, has already been on display during Spring 2016.


The team began in Fall 2014 with the general topic of sustainability and community. Their project really took off once they connected with their community partner, Adults and Children in Trust (ACT). ACT leads an after school program for New York City youth at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and collaborated with the team to make the project a success by making it possible for them to reach children they could learn from and integrated the implementation of their art exhibit into their programming.


With the ability to meet with school children and an organization sharing their goals, the team had momentum to move forward.  They focused their project on the question: How can we teach sustainability and recycling through art?


The DFA team had seen children’s excitement toward recycled art projects through working in after school programs. However, they only saw programs that brought various plastic containers to children from another source and wanted to strengthen the connection between sustainability and the children’s everyday lives.


That’s when the team realized they could facilitate kids making art out of recycled materials they used themselves. During user research, the team encountered individual applesauce containers again and again. They saw an opportunity to have children collect their own supplies; having them wash their own applesauce containers to create art with instead of throwing them away.

Kindergarten students making art during one of the team’s workshops.


Throughout the Winter, they ran workshops about every other week children in kindergarten through fifth grade, beginning each meeting with a brief lesson on sustainability. During these workshops they allowed students to unleash their creative selves and make vases, flowers, and other art pieces out of reused supplies.


At the end of every workshop, the team collected feedback about the kids’ understanding and attitudes towards recycling. By visiting regularly to lead these workshops, the team was able to have a deeper impact on these students than originally anticipated. As they got to know the kids, they were able to have more conversations during the workshop about environmentalism beyond the mini lesson at the beginning.


The workshops concluded with a beautiful public installation at ACT’s location at St. John the Divine. The kids’ work was displayed in ACT’s exhibit “The Value of Food” alongside various other artists’ work on the subjects of food and food systems. The decorated applesauce containers integrated well with the other art pieces when completed with the words “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” also made out of reused materials.

A few of the decorated applesauce containers in the display.


The DFA team loved the idea of making art out of recycling materials so much that they’re planning on doing another art piece made out of reused materials! This time they want to work with college students and all of the paper they use. They’re considering different paper sculptures they can make out of all of the paper students use. Check out an inspiration board they’ve put together and a couple initial prototypes of theirs here.
Interested in working with DFA Barnard | Columbia’s Grow Up Green team? Collaborate with them! Maybe you can put together your own exhibit! http://growupgreen.tumblr.com/image/143035507754