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From Trash to Beauty: Exhibit reveals first-year students’ projects

December—As part of a first-year seminar course in the department of art & design, students at Ohio Northern University were charged to invent a creative way to reuse something or invent a device or object that used waste in a meaningful way.

“Our students were engaged in a thoughtful, community-based response to sustainability and community,” said Professor Brit Rowe who taught the course. “We believe it is important to instill environmental thinking into the art and design process early on, making it an automatic consideration in the students’ career.”

Students were encouraged to investigate what local businesses throw away, what their neighbors throw away and what they throw away. The answers to these questions became the material for the students’ projects.

“Students were really encouraged to think about the entire process of creating,” said Rowe. The students’ projects were evaluated using specific criteria, such as: Is this artifact useful? How might this encourage people to use waste, to reduce waste and/or to consume less? How might the object stimulate thought, dialog and action? “We wanted students to realize that their work can be seen as a way to emphasize the value of art and design by doing something valuable for/to the community,” said Rowe.

This year, students were able to create fun, attractive and useful objects such as an iPad folder and organizer, a desk light and photo frames.

Student reactions were very positive. “We had about seven weeks to work through the process,” explained Zach Woods, a freshman advertising design major from Canton. “Every week, I noticed that one of the things consistently thrown away was the Styrofoam package peanuts. So, I decided to investigate how I could reuse the Styrofoam in a useful way in which people would want to use the object.”

After completing a basic observational research tactic, Zach created a coffee cup sleeve. “I think if someone was to use this, they would find it very useful. It can even be folded, stored away and used again.”

The exhibit, called Reuse/Reduce, is on display in the Wilson Art Center through January 27, 2012 and is free and open to the public. Exhibit hours are Mondays through Saturdays, 8a.m.–5p.m. and Sundays 1–5p.m. The Wilson Art Center is located on Gilbert Street on the Ohio Northern University campus.

The 2010–11 year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bachelor of Arts degree in art at Ohio Northern University. Growing from a single-discipline school, the department offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts with concentrations in two-dimensions, three-dimensions and art therapy. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is also recognized in the second and third editions of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2010-11 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.