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Natural Creations

New art class allows students to paint using sustainable materials 

When looking to gather paint supplies, a group of students at Bridgewater State University don’t head to the local craft store, instead they make their way to the school’s permaculture garden.   

This past spring, students taking Sustainable Art and Science Laboratory, an immersive course taught by Professors Ivana George and Alyssa Deline, planted seeds to produce dye-producing plants that will be used this fall.  

The course is the brainchild of George and Deline, who teamed up last year to offer a class that combines both art and science.   

“Alyssa and I both serve on the sustainability advisory board and wanted to create new courses on sustainability. We connected and together came up with a syllabus,” George said.   

Students in the class are asked to conduct scientific research into environmentally sustainable art materials. Students also learn about professional artists who are currently using sustainable materials in their work.   

Using sustainable materials that they’ve either researched or made in the lab, students will then create art to be showcased at BSU’s annual Student Arts and Research Symposium.   

Deline anticipated that the class would appeal to students studying art or science but was pleasantly surprised to see students from all disciplines across campus.   

“We had students from the humanities, political science, psychology...most students were initially excited about the art aspect of it, but nervous about the process of producing art in the lab, the science-related aspect. Their excitement and apprehension were evident,” Deline said.    

Eventually that nervousness waned, and students gained confidence as the semester progressed.  

“I got to learn about things a lot of students don’t normally get to learn,” said Kim Salla, ’25, a marketing major. “Learning how to create paint with natural materials, then getting to use the paint we created to make projects and then getting to garden in the spring so students in the fall can harvest...I got to enjoy so many new things that I have never been introduce to.”  

 Xander Barney, ’25, signed up for the class because he was interested in the environmental aspect.   

“I’m an Eagle Scout, so I knew I’d enjoy it,” he said. “I learned a lot about making dyes and pigments, from things like flowers, walnuts, onions and even beetles; something I would never have thought to do on my own. It expanded my learning and understanding of the amount of natural materials that are present and easily available,” he said.   

For George, the goal of the course is to bring about awareness.   

“I want students to be aware of what kind of toxins they are exposing themselves to, and toxins they might be exposing others to,” she said. “They need to be conscious of what they are creating as scientists and artists, and make sure they are being mindful in terms of their impact.”  

Deline hopes students walk away from the class with a greater appreciation of how art and science co-exist.   

“When working with sustainable materials, it really is a joyful process,” she said. “You’re expressing yourself and answering questions. Art and science both have different ways when it comes to exploration, but in both you have to be willing to take risks and make mistakes in order to succeed as either an artist or a scientist.”  

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