Allegheny College, PA Arts and Environment Initiative

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Allegheny College, PA, US

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Type: Program

Status: Ongoing

Source File: http://ceed.allegheny.edu/A&EI/index.html

Description:

The Arts & Environment Initiative uses art to promote regional revitalization and beautification. We work with local community partners to identify environmental problems and implement solutions.

Project Goals:

  • Use art to generate awareness of environmental problems
  • Teach environmental sustainability
  • Change how people think about and react to the environment around them
  • Support and extend coursework in the College's Art and the Environment special minor

Projects:

Read Between the Signs
Initiated in 2002, this ongoing roadside intervention is located along Route 322 at the gateway to Meadville. Read Between the Signs (RBTS) involves the design and fabrication of a 1200' x 9' sculptural relief made of discarded road signs and featuring solar- and wind-powered kinetic components. RBTS is attached to an existing chain link fence surrounding PennDOT's storage lot and depicts images and forms that reference the Allegheny Mountains, the French Creek watershed, roads, PennDOT workers, farms and forests. This sculptural “fence” beautifies the gateway to Meadville, while creating a unique sense of place and identity for our community. Since 2002 RBTS has evolved into a participatory community-based public art project led by Arts & Environment Initiative Director and artist Amara Geffen. It also has become a landmark for the Meadville community.

The Green Room
The original concept for The Green Room was developed in 1997. In 2000, Phase I of this plan was implemented at the Crawford County Industrial Park (a restored industrial center) where an abandoned lobby was transformed into a "green" break room. Allegheny College interns painted a 33' x 17' mural that explores the history of the site. An historical photo essay provides information about the factory's past, and sculptural tables and chairs provide a place to sit and relax. Everything used in this project was recycled or represented sustainable practices.

Greening the Gateway
Greening the Gateway is a community greening project designed by Allegheny College students and accomplished in collaboration with the PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Located on Rt. 322/Rt.6 along PennDOT's maintenance building property, the project's goals were to beautify and enhance the area, educate the public about native plants, and help restore a sense of pride in the Meadville area.

In December 1997, a panel of local judges, including representatives from PennDOT, selected the student designed landscape plan from among four submissions. The winning design was implemented in April of 1998. Plants were then selected for their abilities to withstand the extremely harsh roadside environment.

As with any project, Greening the Gateway has been a learning experience. After the plantings weathered the first winter, some problems were identified and CEED and PennDOT searched for solutions that would help improve the health of the plantings. For instance, during winter many of the plants were harmed by salt that was intended for the highways. Beginning in the winter of 1999-2000, the shrubs were covered with burlap to protect them from the harsh winter weather. Make a Difference Day volunteers helped with the new plan.

Fortunately, spring volunteers discovered that the protective burlap had worked! The plants were in much better condition. Next, a CEED intern assessed the plants and performed an overall site evaluation. Recommendations for new plantings led to more experimentation with the site.

Greening the Gateway, one of the first CEED projects, continues to be a challenge and a learning experience in the Meadville community.

Murals
With support from Allegheny College and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful (KPB), the following projects were completed during the summer of 2007.

In connection with the city of Meadville's Business District Action Plan, CEED facilitated design and fabrication of a signart mural on the parking garage at Arch and Water Streets. The mural celebrates and highlights Mill Run, which flows beneath the parking garage. (CEED intern Jude Shingle '08).

The Market Alley Mural, designed by Berry Breene '07 and funded by KPB and a gift from the Richards Family, will celebrate Meadville and Mill Run. The 12' x 73' mural will be located on the Hovis Annex Building on Park Avenue and is being implemented as a community "Painting - Bee" bringing inter generational groups in to assist in the painting.

A signart mural, META MASH, was designed and fabricated for Voodoo Brewery adjacent to Mill Run. The project represents our first efforts to revitalize this site along Mill Run adjacent to Pocket Park.

Signs & Flowers
Begun in 2001, the original idea for Signs & Flowers was developed by Allegheny College's Arts & Environment Initiative (A&EI). PennDOT contacted A&EI for assistance in beautifying their grounds and increasing awareness of their presence in the community. Under the direction of Professor Geffen, CEED interns working in collaboration with PennDOT welders, road crew and heavy equipment operators, created a sculptural garden that speaks of our human impact on the planet. Twelve enormous (10'-12' high) road sign flowers and rolling mounds echo natural forms. The sculptures dramatize our tendency to control and refine nature.

Signs & Flowers won the Team Innovation Award at the 2002 Pennsylvania Innovation Expo. Fifty -four projects from every state agency were eligible for this award.

Market Alley
Since 2000, the Arts & Environment Initiative has worked with the city of Meadville and Allegheny College students and interns to develop a plan to beautify Meadville's historic Market Alley. This endeavor is part of a larger city project to create an urban pedestrian way to bring hikers and bikers through downtown. The alley proposal includes works of art, landscaping, restoration, and the development of a trash and recycling plan for businesses. When completed, Market Alley will generate awareness of Meadville's history and place within the French Creek watershed. As with all Arts & Environment projects, community charrettes were held throughout the design process and many individuals have contributed to the overall plan.

LandArt/EcoArt
CEED’s Arts & Environment Initiative was awarded a contract to design an innovative solution to stormwater runoff at the I-79 interchange in Meadville. Both aesthetic and functional solutions will be addressed through the project, which will serve as a national model for handling stormwater and improving water quality on federal highways. Construction will begin in Spring 2008. Allegheny students will test water quality in Van Horne Creek before and after construction. The project has been titled "In Praise of Land and Water: Revisioning Stormwater on Federal Highways."

With support from Allegheny College and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful (KPB), the following project was completed during the summer of 2007.

In collaboration with the Redevelopment Authority and the city of Meadville, a stormwater garden was designed and built to mitigate stormwater overflows during heavy rains. The garden was built on a vacant lot adjacent to the new municipal parking garage in the Market House Square area (KPB intern Ariel Dungca).

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