As an Elon University student majoring in Environmental and Ecological Science with a creative spirit at heart, sophomore Sarah Midolo was excited to take the course ART 339: Eco Art as a requirement for her major.
“I’ve never taken an art class at Elon,” Midolo said. “I really wanted to do that and of course I’m very passionate about the environment and the inner workings of trying to preserve our planet and our people so I thought it was a really great way to combine my creative points and my major passions.”
The course, taught this semester by Samantha DiRosa, associate professor of art and environmental studies, is meant to be cross disciplinary. It combines elements of environmental theories and ethics with art and creative expression. For Midolo, the course has given her an outlet for creative protest.
“So the whole purpose of Eco art is kind of to bring awareness to these bigger issues through like creative and exploratory processes,” Midolo said. “It’s combining creative expression with protest in a way, so my group decided to do an informative simulation based on our frustrations surrounding the political, social, economic and environmental facets of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
The assignment was to create an art installation that reflects current issues in the environmental and ecological sciences. Midolo, along with senior David May, and sophomore Melanie Intriago, created “Inside Dakota,” an interactive game and simulation with the purpose of addressing the complexities of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The exhibit lives in the Arts West “Living Studio” — a small greenhouse across the street from Arts West. It is the first project from the class to be displayed in a four-week long series. The following weeks will showcase the creative and immersive art installations on current environmental problems in the Elon community and nation as a whole created by the other students in the course.
When viewers enter the greenhouse, they are met with more than a dozen pieces of
hanging black tear drops, all suspended by red, yellow, green or blue yarn, that have different scenarios on them. The black shoe footprints, bare footprints and paw prints on the floor of the exhibit lead the viewers through the simulation.
Directions for how to play the game are displayed next to the entrance to the Living Studio. Participants are invited to spin a color wheel and will go through the simulation acting as one of four characters based on the color they get — red being the indigenous people, yellow being “the man,” green being the wildlife and blue being the average United States citizen.
The participants then walk through the simulation, reading the cards that correspond to the role they are playing. The cards serve as a timeline an examine what could happen to these different roles if the Dakota Access Pipeline is constructed and if it bursts. The students did extensive research, including current events and statistical facts, to create these different scenarios.
After completing the simulation, the students hope the participants find that the people are more informed about the different stakeholders involved in this process and how some groups may benefit more than others. For Midolo, her biggest hope is that people become more aware about the larger implications of this pipeline.
“A lot of promises were made regarding this pipeline and a lot of thins were said that aren’t true,” Midolo said, “and the media easily persuades a lot of people and it’s hard for people to find truth in it. So, we used all scientific and government-based websites for statistical purposes and accuracy and came up with something that hopefully just opens people’s eyes a little bit more and prompts them to want to get more involved with issues like this.”