Dumpster graffiti raises awareness about climate change

Project creator talks the art of sustainability

The grafitti art outside Douglas library.
Photo: 

Student artists have found one way to raise awareness about climate change on campus, and it’s trash.

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century, and environmental activists are working diligently to ensure that this topic remains relevant.

As of Oct. 1, four student artists have taken their activism and made street art, displayed in the exhibition located on University Avenue, between Ontario Hall and Douglas Library.

“Climate change is important. Period. It’s an actual fact. It’s happening,” said Andreea Bosorogon, the sustainability and issues co-chair for the Kingston chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology, one of the groups behind the project.

The organization hosted the Dumpster Art Contest in conjunction with the Queen’s Sustainability Office as a capstone initiative of Sustainability Week, which took place earlier this term.

The Society hopes this will be an annual contest, allowing the message of sustainability to be reinterpreted each year by different student-artists and reigniting the discussion.

The idea for the project came from Bosorogon, who wanted to use visual art in the initiative as an atypical approach to awareness campaigns on campus.

“I thought it would be cool to bring imagery to campus,” she said. “By introducing imagery there would be astronger effect on the community. 

An academic journal will always be there, but a picture is worth a thousand words.” 

This medium also allowed the organization to make environmental activism more accessible to people with different skill sets. 

“Arts students are often marginalized [on campus], but not because they aren’t interested. Their passion is visual arts. We tried to incorporate that, to make the Queen’s community more inclusive,” Bosorogon said.

The Society for Conservation Biology made a panel of judges to select the winning submissions amongst numerous applications.

Bosorogon was one of the judges on the panel. “We wanted an equal opportunity for each of the participants. [The process of] judging artwork is trying to make it as objective as you can.” 

As a result of the large scale of the project, two sketches of the design were required in each submission. Design submissions were ranked according to how successfully they reflected the theme of sustainability and related to Queen’s and the greater Kingston community. Artists were given complete freedom of artistic expression within this pursuit. 

In the end, four artists were selected to paint their work on the dumpsters: Maya Stricker, Gabriella Sali, Kaitlyn McAllister, and Alex Rickman. 

“No artwork is the same. Each one has a unique message. That leaves the opportunity for a lot of people to connect with whichever one they resonate most with. Everyone has their favourite, because we are different people,” Bosorogon said. 

The artists had just under a week to bring their vision to life on campus, with all materials provided by the Sustainability Office. The results are not currently being used for waste management, but will soon be placed around campus and reintegrated into the system.

The Society for Conservation Biology hopes that this project will start a critical discussion about climate change, sustainability, and waste management at Queen’s. 

“The student body is the next generation coming in [to positions of power]. We are full of ideas,” Bosorogon said.

She emphasized the importance of awareness and encourages people to read news and research papers, attend the various guest talks on campus, and to take classes that focus on the topic. 

“Once you’re informed, the decisions are going to come accordingly. No one needs to tell you what to do because you’re already going to know what you have to do,” she said. 

Maya Stricker, whose design won the top prize, drew inspiration from Indigenous cultures for her art. 

“I made this art with the hope that someone will see it and be reminded that there are things which surpass the values of money,” Stricker said.

Her dumpster depicts a female powwow dancer on the front, a sunset and sunrise on the sides, and the planet Earth on the back, alongside a quote from David Suzuki reading, “Aboriginals are fighting for us all.” Caitlin Ying painted the calligraphy featured in her design. 

“The process of designing and painting the dumpster art was really a lot of fun, but it was a bit tricky fitting the painting hours into my schedule and planning around the prevalent rainy days. Overall, the painting environment was a big challenge, but I enjoyed seeing my vision come to life,” Stricker said.

Meanwhile, Kaitlyn McAllister took her design in a different direction.

Her dumpster showcases Batman and Superman in a dystopian society, wearing green costumes in place of their traditional attire to symbolize the environment. She reinterpreted the iconic Bat-signal by swapping out the image of a bat with the symbol for recycling to suggest “reduce, reuse, and recycle” as a means of combatting climate change. 

“Painting has always been a hobby of mine, so to do it for a prevalent cause such as this was really cool,” McAllister said.

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