Urban Sustainability by Jessica Kimmel, ecoartspace intern 2011-2012

The Urban Sustainability program at Antioch University in Los Angeles encourages a multi-disciplinary approach to solving issues of scientific and societal importance. The core requirements for the degree include courses in systems thinking, environmental literacy, social justice and a hands-on approach to fieldwork. The program also provides graduate study in urban ecosystem science, activism and advocacy, environmental education, sustainable practices, and research methods. A large component is our fieldwork studies-- contributing an opportunity to explore and develop skills to our rigorous studies and the experience to prepare for our ambitious futures. In my first semester of fieldwork in 2011, I selected two site projects including ecoartspace with Patricia Watts and Green Public Art with Rebecca Ansert, both out of Los Angeles.

During the 36-unit degree program, I am participating in a series of residencies that consist of classroom instruction, guest lectures and elective seminars. Antioch has a long-standing commitment to social justice in the community that has allowed me to consider utilizing methods and theories of social sciences toward solving complex sustainability related concerns. The class has toured the port of Los Angeles, examined L.A.’s public lands struggle the beach in Malibu and hiked through Ramirez Canyon, toured Venice on bikes with Bikerowave, and visited the Burbank Recycling Center and Puente Hills Landfill. These tours have created a really valuable platform for the free exchange of ideas pertaining to making our contribution more sustainable.

Antioch’s Urban Sustainability program will operate as a vehicle for the study of urbanization and its ecosystemic impacts. As social scientists, educators and communicators, I believe we must similarly examine how environmental hardship is socio-economically distributed. Environmental justice, climate change and land use provide us with excellent context. In the multi-disciplinary tradition, I have long studied and admired leading environmental artists such as Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter. I applaud how progressive-intellectuals have successfully used various mediums to communicate complex ideas in accessible terms. Adams used photography to capture the beauty of the American landscape and bring awareness to the necessity of its protection. Photography is one of my academic and personal concentrations and as a master’s student my hope is to create an intersection of creativity and activism to initiate lasting changes.

This year was also my first experience curating an art show. I was the student organizer of this years annual Artistic Uprising at Antioch, which took place on November 18, 2011. It was such an incredible experience for me to have and has allowed me to grow in ways I never dreamed of. Working on a project of such importance to the campus and AULA community, continuing the tradition as the fourth annual exhibit, and leading my peers through a successful show has given me a sense of fulfillment and validated the direction I’ve chosen. The art show was started by Cindy Short in 2008. Proceeds from art sales and other activities at the event benefit The Bridge Program. Bridge provides a college education for low-income adults in the Los Angeles area, at no cost to the student. The program pays their tuition for 15 college credits with all other necessary expenses included: books, supplies, bus tokens, and even meals on the evenings of classes.

Through the opportunities Antioch has given me, I have been able to witness first-hand the impacts and influence art can have in support of a sustainable existence on the goals of urban sustainability. It is my hope to contribute my efforts to mobilize artists in the pursuit of spreading the message of environmental consciousness. I will also be exposed to professionals outside of science and academia that are working to promote the goals of sustainability by participating in the environmental movement. My goal is to encourage environmental discourse in the local community and solidify artists as relevant stakeholders in the environmental dialogue. Through project management, artist interaction and social media, I have a unique opportunity to contribute to ecoartspace’s operation, success and continued legacy as an invaluable and effective environmental resource. I admire what ecoartspace stands for and am thrilled by their initiatives for promoting and reaching sustainability. I am excited to be a member of their team and hope that our efforts together can transcend social, economic and political boundaries.