In the fall of 2009, the School of Art was given a new building on the Fairfax campus. During the first semester, the grounds of the building were completely void of vegetation and much of the building felt very industrial. To counteract the concrete and glass, Vina Sananikone and Justin Raphael Roykovich founded SoA Green, a student group that would use art and design greening initiatives to bring awareness of ecological issues to the School of Art. Serendipitously, Mark Cooley, (a professor in the School of Art), was simultaneously planning his Eco-Arts class to launch in the fall semester of 2010. Needing an outdoor space for this class, Cooley and SoA Green worked together (with much help from University Sustainability) to transform the clay landscape outside the Art and Design Building into a garden. Since the transformation, the garden at the School of Art, now known as “the Green Studio” shares two main uses: one, it acts as a student run garden of fruits, vegetables and flowers; two, it serves Cooley’s class with a permaculture studio, in which Eco-Art installations will be shown and curated.
The Green Studio
There are three main areas for the SoA Green Studio. One is by the stairs of the School of Art, leading into the Creative Quadrangle. Another is in the sculpture yard behind the building, using wooden pallets as raised beds for vegetables. The third area is in the front of the building, where a perennial wildflower garden has been planted, stretching the total length of the building.
While the initial goals of SoA Green were to simply to start greening and guerilla gardening activities at the School of Art, the garden has since become the focus of a much more ecological mindset. Conscious of the plight of Collapsed Colony Disorder and the endangerment of the monarch butterfly, flowers have been planted to specifically draw these insects into the garden. Following the example of the artist Mel Chin and his “Revival Field Project,” certain plants were put into the garden that would absorb and thrive on the minerals left behind by construction. The most visible of which are the sunflowers that have graced the stairway to the Creative Quadrangle. (In Fukushima, where Japan had a nuclear reactor meltdown, a similar process has taken place http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/19/us-japan-disaster-sunflowers-idUSTRE77I0PG20110819.)
The goals of the gardens at the School of Art are malleable, and will continue to take shape as new students and professors join the School of Art. It is the hope of SoA Green that these gardens will continue to be a habitat for the indigenous insects and small animals that have used the garden as nourishment and protection, that the gardens will produce a learning of self-sustainability by the growing of food and that it will provide a resource for the combination of art and design projects of an ecological nature to take place.