Tuesday, October 28, 2014

People's Climate March, Part 3: Home front action -- local art students create People's Climate March posters

By Michele Bourdieu

Along the Michigan Tech Trails, these People's Climate March posters, created by students in Michigan Tech Prof. Lisa Johnson's 3D Design class, who added their own touches to basic designs sent by the Justseeds Artists' Cooperative and turned them into sculptures, call attention to the march and climate issues. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

HOUGHTON/HANCOCK -- When they signed up for certain art and design classes at Michigan Tech and Finlandia universities this fall, students were unaware they would become involved in a historic event -- the People's Climate March of Sept. 21, 2014. The event attracted 400,000 participants to New York City -- and thousands to other cities participating around the world -- to call for action on climate change.

Through their art classes at Michigan Tech and Finlandia, the students participated in the Justseeds Artists' Cooperative's "People's Climate March art: 30-city wheatpaste action" intended to get the word out about the march and climate crisis issues.*

Houghton/Hancock was one of the 30 cities that participated in the project through these students. Several artists in the Justseeds Cooperative created a series of large posters about the march, and the students were invited to use their creative instincts to turn the posters into art projects to be displayed on campus and in the community in order to call attention to the march and climate change.

Students in Lisa Johnson's 2D Design class add their own creative touches to posters sent to them by the Justseeds Cooperative. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Lisa Johnson, assistant professor in the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Michigan Tech, said she chose the project for both her 2D Design and 3D Design classes, both of which have been developed within the framework, "Design for Ecological Reflection" -- an idea that ties in to research in which artists, writers, and scientists are coming together as partners, working towards a greater understanding of ecology.

Sculptor and scenic artist Lisa Johnson, assistant professor in the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Michigan Tech, involved her 2D and 3D Design classes in the art project "People's Climate March art: 30-city wheatpaste action," initiated by the Justseeds Artists' Cooperative.* (Photo courtesy Lisa Johnson)

"I knew about the project because I'm friends with Rachel Shragis (she is one of the main organizers in New York, and I met her when we were both artists in residence at the Vermont Studio Center)," Johnson explained. "The project was a happy accident and a great fit. My design classes are taught with an eye towards ecological response and reflection, and I was hoping for a project that would help the class spring into making things, being environmentally conscious, and jump start their ability to talk about design and its connection to communities."

Johnson noted the connection with the march came at the right time for her classes.

"We were able to research issues, artists, and other activist events; brainstorm display ideas; get out into the community; work with great images that we could then look at and discuss ("why is this a strong graphic?" what works here?). But the thing I'm most happy about is the connectivity between different communities -- across the U.S. and the world -- and that the students were able to see that connectivity and find links between themselves, here in Houghton, and others around the country."

Dakota Lowrance of Buchanan, Mich., a third-year student in mechanical engineering at Michigan Tech, said he was "pretty fluent" in climate change issues through social media, his main source for news, so he was excited to participate in the Climate March project through Johnson's 2D Design class.

Dakota Lowrance, left, a student in Lisa Johnson's 2D Design class, is pictured here with two students from the 3D Design class, who also participated in the project: Zhen Wang of Chang-Zhou, China (center), and Greg Roberts of Holland, Mich. -- both seniors in mechanical engineering. After the completion of their project, the students met with Keweenaw Now for an interview in Michigan Tech's J. R. Van Pelt and Opie Library café. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)**

"I was really happy and excited to collaborate with the issues through the class," Lowrance said. "The product was a non-violent approach to climate change issues."

The 3D class mounted images from the poster designs on stands, creating climate change sculptures, which they set up along the Michigan Tech Trails.

Climate change sculpture on the Michigan Tech Trails. Students in Lisa Johnson's 3D Design class created these and set them up along the trails to call attention to the People's Climate March and climate change issues. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

"You design art with an overall purpose in mind," Lowrance noted. "You incorporate principles of art -- for example, movement, emphasis, proportion and balance -- into the final design."

Kier MacArtney of Grand Rapids, Mich., a senior studying live entertainment production and stage electrics, said he thought the Climate March project was an interesting and surprising take on what he expected from the 3D class, since the students became involved in a current issue.

"It was interesting taking a two-dimensional poster and coming up with an idea to make it three-dimensional -- since billboards are boring," MacArtney noted.

Kier MacArtney of Grand Rapids (center) and other students in Lisa Johnson's 3D Design class, carry their Climate March posters to set them up along the Michigan Tech Trails. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

He said it was fun despite the type of glue they were asked to use, which he thought resembled cream of wheat.

"The glue was gross, but environmentally safe," MacArtney added.

Students in the 3D Design class paste climate change images to their sculptures.  (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)**

Students in Johnson's 2D Design class used the poster designs to create large-format, interactive puzzles for the People’s Climate March.

After cutting the images and pasting them on wooden tiles that could be moved around with either hands or feet, the students first placed them in the Michigan Tech's J. R. Van Pelt and Opie Library. Later they moved them to the Forestry Building on campus.

Students in the 2D Design class arrange the pieces of their interactive puzzle on the floor of Michigan Tech's J. R. Van Pelt and Opie Library. The purpose was to involve others in making their own designs with hands or feet (suggesting the march) by re-arranging the wooden tiles. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Kristen Doering of Wausau, Wis., a senior in medical lab science at Michigan Tech, also worked on the posters in the 2D class. Doering said she did not know about the march before the class project, but was already interested in climate change and its relationship to medical fields.

"I did research on the Kyoto Protocol a few years ago," Doering said. "Health issues can arise from climate issues."

Doering noted some of her friends (who were not in the design class) got interested in her project and the march when she told them about it.

"They went to the library and snap-chatted me a picture to show they were there," Doering said.

The interactive puzzle created by Lisa Johnson's 2D Design class invites participation and calls attention to the Climate March. On the table in the foreground the students displayed informational brochures about the climate movement. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

Doering said she went to the library and noticed people had moved the puzzle pieces.

"I found it really exciting that the artist (from the Justseeds Cooperative who created the original poster) was impressed with our design -- because it was interactive," Doering added.

Christine Shonnard, a senior at Houghton High School, takes the 2D Design class at Michigan Tech through the dual enrollment program.

"I wanted to take an art class because I am thinking of art as a possible career," Shonnard explained.

Like several of the other students, Shonnard learned about the Climate March through the 2D Design class.

Joining Dakota Lowrance, left, and Zhen Wang, third from left, for Keweenaw Now's interview in the library café are, from right, Christine Shonnard of Houghton, Kristen Doering of Wausaw, Wis. -- both students in the 2D Design class -- and Kier MacArtney of Grand Rapids, a student in the 3D class. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

"I thought it was pretty cool," Shonnard said about the class project and the march. "I think if I had more time and independence it would have been cool to attend the march."

Christine also noted Lauri Davis, her biology teacher at Houghton High School, who also teaches ecology, has included climate change issues in her classes. As an example, she had her class do research on how to design an energy-efficient building.

"She's a really great teacher," Shonnard said about Davis. "I learned about having the building partially underground and walls built into a hill (for insulation)."

Davis also had her class do research on factory farms -- issues pertaining to industrial agriculture, Shonnard added.

While the students from these classes were unable to attend the march, one student from the 2D Design class, Jacob Braykovich of Walled Lake, Mich., a 5th-year student in materials science and engineering, went to New York City the week following the Climate March. He said he noticed, while walking around New York, that some of the climate posters were still displayed.

Jacob Braykovich trims a design for the Climate March interactive puzzle during the 2D Design class. (Photo courtesy Michigan Tech University)

"Its powerful that thousands of people from all over the country came together to stand up for such a controversial topic," Braykovich said.

He commented on the dual importance of the class -- both artistic and ecological.

"My appreciation for the way we capture the viewer's eye was transformed through this project. Using balance we were able to draw together many aspects of design while effectively conveying the importance of climate change," Braykovich explained.

Finlandia faculty, art students participate in Climate March poster project

People's Climate March poster from Justseeds Cooperative displayed in the Ryan Street Garden, part of Finlandia University's participation in the art project. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

In Hancock, at Finlandia University's International School of Art and Design, two faculty members participated in the People's Climate March art project: Phillip Faulkner, assistant professor of intermedia, and Phyllis Fredendall, professor of fiber and fashion design.

Faulkner said the goal of the project was "to present promotion materials throughout the two towns in the form of large scale visual art posters to raise awareness of the People's Climate March cause," while involving students in the presentation and creation.

Finlandia International School of Art and Design faculty members, Phillip Faulkner, left, and Phyllis Fredendall, second from left, are pictured here with students who worked on the climate posters -- from left, Deidre Yseult (aka Taylor Ruotsala) of Atlantic Mine, Angie Kilpela of Houghton and Olivia Leukuma of Chassell. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

After learning about the project from Lisa Johnson, Faulkner contacted several local businesses, seeking community partners for the project, and set up three different large posters from Justseeds artists at these locations: Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock, Fifth and Elm Coffee House in Houghton and the Ryan Street Community Garden in Hancock.

People's Climate March poster at the Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock. (Photo courtesy Phillip Faulkner, Finlandia University)

This People's Climate March poster set up outside the Fifth and Elm Coffee House in Houghton was part of Finlandia's participation in the art project. (Photo courtesy Phillip Faulkner, Finlandia University)

Meanwhile, Fredendall incorporated the project into her Color and Composition class, which is held in the Jutila Center in Hancock. Her students made posters about the People's Climate March and set them up in the Jutila Center and outside on the main Finlandia campus.

One large collage poster created by students in Phyllis Fredendall's class is still displayed in the Jutila Center in Hancock. Pictured here with Prof. Phyllis Fredendall are students in her Color and Composition class -- from left, Victoria Wallace, Angie Kilpela, Brandon Hylton (seated on floor), Deidre Yseult (aka Taylor Ruotsala), Joy Petaja and Olivia Leukuma. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Art students Angie Kilpela of Houghton and Olivia Leukuma of Chassell worked together on one of the larger posters, a collage that is still displayed on the second floor of the Jutila Center. In their collage, they incorporated three of the original posters sent from Justseeds Cooperative to Michigan Tech's Lisa Johnson, who shared them with Finlandia.

"Getting the word out about climate change is important," Kilpela said. "It was fun. I had never heard of (the march) until we worked on the project."

Olivia Leukuma, left, and Angie Kilpela with the collage they designed using three different posters sent by the Justseeds Cooperative. (Photo by Phyllis Fredendall for Keweenaw Now)

Leukuma said she didn't know about the march before the project but learned how to "take what we're given and make something out of it -- expand it and get more creative and get across the purpose of the Climate March and where it is."

Both Leukuma and Kilpela said they noticed the posters on the main Finlandia campus attracted the attention of other students.

After adding their personal collage designs to the posters from Justseeds Cooperative, Finlandia art students displayed them on the main Finlandia campus to call attention to the People's Climate March. (Photo courtesy Phillip Faulkner, Finlandia University)

"I heard people ask what they were," Leukuma said.

"They were very catchy," added Kilpela. "I think that's important."

Victoria Wallace of Houghton said she learned from the Climate March project that many people in many places have all come together to change the way the earth is treated and to try to make it a better place with different types of energy and practices.

"Working to make the posters for the world to see was an amazing way to put my own print on the ideas of change," Wallace added.

One student in Fredendall's class, Deidre Yseult (aka Taylor Ruotsala) of Atlantic Mine, said she had heard of the Climate March before the class project but learned more about it in class.

"I'm very eco-friendly and I try to keep up with those issues," Ruotsala said. "I was really happy to see that people of the United States are still working towards a greener future."

Deidre Yseult (aka Taylor Ruotsala) of Atlantic Mine displays a poster announcing an upcoming fundraiser (Oct. 30, 31) for the Young Women's Art Caucus, a Finlandia group planning a February 2015 trip to New York City. A member of the Caucus, Ruotsala says she hopes to see post-Climate March changes in New York if she's able to travel there with the group.

Ruotsala said she worked with student Sarah Williams of Houghton on one of the posters hung on the main campus, across from Finlandia Hall.

"We took a bit longer than the other groups because we wanted to focus on several different problems, such as polar icecaps melting, deforestation, genetic mutation and dramatic climate changes (such as a polar vortex in Hawaii)," Ruotsala noted.

A first-year student at Finlandia, Ruotsala added that she has been active in environmental issues since middle school. At Finlandia she is a member of the Young Women's Caucus and hopes to visit New York City with that group in February 2015. She said she hopes to see "a difference in New York after the march."

* To learn more about the Justseeds Cooperative People's Climate March art project, visit their Web site.

** Update: In an earlier posting, we made a few errors in identifying the classes of the students pictured here. These have been corrected. Thanks to Lisa Johnson for calling our attention to the details.

Editor's Note: This is the third in our series of articles on the People's Climate March and related events.

See also: People's Climate March, Part 1, Letter: Houghton couple travel to New York to march for planet's future  and People's Climate March, Part 2: Video Report: Riding People's Climate Train to New York.

Watch for our photos and videos of the Sept. 21, 2014, People's Climate March -- coming soon ...

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