Ms. Sarah Clauss
Tile Project at 2017 Youth Rally
Art has long been a tool of revolutions — think of Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag or the marching songs of the Civil Rights Movement. Now, the environmental movement is sweeping our nation and it’s doing so in style.
Prior to the Youth Rally in Montpelier last year, students from all around the state decorated tiles cut from repurposed cardboard boxes. Sarah Fadem, a college student working for the environmental organization, Our Climate, organized the project. She asked participants to design their tiles based on the prompt: “What does climate change mean to you?” At the rally, all of the tiles were pulled together to form a giant maple leaf, a classic symbol of Vermont. However, the most intriguing part of this project wasn’t the scale of the finished product or even the use of recycled materials; it was how it captured a multitude of individual voices to push forward one common cause.
To get an artist’s perspective on how environmentalism and art intersect, I turned to CVU’s Emma Ramirez-Richer, an AP Art student and a leader of the EnACT club.
CVC: How do you see art and environmentalism intersecting?
Ramirez-Richer: “I’ve seen a lot of yard art and other large scale sculptures being made of recycled materials. I think that here in Vermont, people don’t want to let ‘junk’ go to waste and try to make something new, enjoyable, and funky. There is also a lot of beautiful photography and landscape paintings. Not just here, but around the world. This type of art really intrigues me. I love seeing natural features of the earth from around the world. Another type of art I think is surprisingly powerful is graphic design and logos when used on stickers and shirts [such as the EnACT carpool stickers designed by Ramirez-Richer]. This kind of art can become widespread and trendy, especially in Vermont!”
CVC: Why do you think that art is so effective as a persuasive tool?
Ramirez-Richer: “The sheer size of it is powerful. Size is kind of the universal world for power. There was power, importance, and tons of support behind the Youth Rally. The intricate designs within the large maple leaf [of last year’s Youth Rally tile art project] represent that individuals have their own take on the large issue.”
CVC: As an artist, do you feel more motivated when there is a movement behind what you are creating? Are there times when having such a serious focus feels intimidating?
Ramirez-Richer: “Yes! It’s absolutely intimidating to create art that is purposeful. It’s hard to incorporate subtle messages into art. It’s very easy to make art with a very ‘in your face’ message, if that makes any sense. I’m not a huge fan of shoving a message, especially a more negative one, onto someone. However, it is rewarding when my viewers feel the emotion I want them to feel.”