Enhancing Sustainable Goals through the Arts

Researcher’s Italian writing residency expands knowledge of environmental art




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Barbara Heifferon, professor of English at Rochester Institute of Technology, is using a summer writing residency from the Rensing Center to explore the impact of environmental themes in the fine arts. The work seeks to enhance understanding of how art, science and the environment can be combined to expand public understanding of sustainable concepts.

“Sustainability is becoming a major theme in the art world and numerous artists are using environmental concepts and sustainable materials to infuse their artwork and promote environmental goals,” notes Heifferon. “However, there has been little scholarly research on this movement, the motives of the artists themselves or the impact these pieces are having on the public’s understanding of sustainability as a concept.”

Heifferon is spending the month of July at the center’s facility in Italy conducting interviews with an environmental artist whose work is a series of sculptures utilizing sustainable materials and environmental themes. She hopes to produce a book on the collaborative project combining creative writing and photos of the sculptures she is studying.

“It is my hope this project will lead to a broader discussion of how artistic expression can be used to better promote the need for sustainable living and environmental quality throughout the world,” she adds.

Heifferon is an expert in the rhetoric of science and medicine and interested in expanding her understanding of connections between art and science, particularly in the area of sustainability. Her latest book, Rhetoric of Healthcare: Essays Toward a New Disciplinary Inquiry was released in May.

The Rensing Center is a non-profit residency program, which promotes artistic and writing projects focused on environmental themes.