The College of Charleston has been working to increase students’ understanding of sustainability and solidifying a movement to inspire the entire campus. This fall, the Halsey Institute teamed up with the South Carolina Aquarium to bring awareness of the problems of plastic consumption and waste with an exhibition called SEA CHANGE, which is sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, the Quality Enhancement Plan, and others. The exhibition features Aurora Robson: The Tide is High and Chris Jordan: Midway, whose works highlight the problems within our consumer culture, specifically the plastic pollution that fills our oceans. Aurora Robson transforms Tide detergent bottles, water bottles, and other plastic containers into a beautiful and inspiring sculpture that both intrigues the viewer and also keeps them at arms-length, reminding us that this is made up of our plastic waste. Robson’s relationship with plastic is something that has inspired many including myself. Now on my walks through campus and the city, I notice the plastic waste that is littered throughout Charleston. Beforehand, this was something I didn’t think much of but after working with Aurora, it is hard to ignore the signs of pollution. Her work has created a wave of consciousness and because of her, I look out onto the world differently. The theme of plastic continues over into Chris Jordan’s work and is the theme of his film ALBATROSS where on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean, the albatross birds are dying after eating plastic they find in the water. Chris Jordan’s moving photographs and emotional film show that our consumer culture does impact the world and a number of ecosystems that most of us don’t know exist.
Each year at the College of Charleston, the school works to increase its sustainability literacy and make a difference both on campus and in our local Charleston community. The Office of Sustainability offers internships for students to get more involved and have an exclusive program that works with Greek Life. The Sustain Greek program strives “to integrate and apply knowledge of sustainable practices within Fraternity and Sorority Life to better the College of Charleston community as a whole.” Back in 2012, the Office of Sustainability started working with New Student Orientation in welcoming incoming freshmen and transfer students to campus. They inform new students during orientation about the importance of sustainability. The Office even offers up an Urban Apprenticeship internship for students interested in “urban agriculture through workshops, field trips, seminar-style discussions, and hands-on experience gained through volunteer opportunities and workdays in campus gardens.” The College has also implemented a Quality Enhancement Plan in sustainable literacy that aims “to endow students with the tools and knowledge they’ll need to address 21st-century problems such as climate change, social injustice, and economic inequality.”
It is important for the art world to continue to support artists like Aurora Robson and Chris Jordan in order to spread awareness and compassion about the environment and our planet. By diversifying the platforms in which we speak about sustainability, we are able to reach more people that otherwise would not have had this opportunity.
by Brittany Marino, Halsey Institute intern