Stream it: Sustainable Futures

Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager

Jan 06, 2021

Home page image for the Guggenheim Summer Practicum project Sustainable Futures

There have been so many recent and inspiring examples of how art can highlight and address systemic challenges in the modern world, from local murals to national ad campaigns. For the Guggenheim Museum's inaugural Summer Practicum, staff worked virtually with 19 undergrad and graduate students to develop 16 alternative ways of approaching various roadblocks to a more sustainable and equitable global society. Their ideas, focused on the topic of "Sustainable Futures," were recently collected and shared on a robust multimedia website.

The goal of the practicum, as the site's introduction explains, is "to amplify the voices of the next generation at a moment of deep uncertainty about the future; creating such a platform through an art museum like the Guggenheim felt appropriate, as art has always existed in tandem with the work of community organizing, campaigning, and leadership." The solution-oriented results of participating students are elegant, ingenious, and sometimes remarkably simple.

The first section, which highlights ways to build stronger relationships between humans, nature, and the spaces we inhabit, includes a podcast to deepen interpersonal connections through song, an exploration of how grocery shopping habits can be altered for greater nourishment and sustainability, and a toolkit for environmental justice action with input from past Wex Artist Residency Award recipient Brian Harnetty.

A section on repurposing materials covers exercises to make art-making accessible to virtually all, the move toward repairing and refreshing clothes to cut back on fast fashion and sending fabric to landfills, and a exoskeleton-like concept for building a better backpack. In "Rethinking Responsibility," students cover topics from the power grid to institutional accountability. The project concludes with ideas for physical interventions to foster advancement, like urban planning models to help rebuild the currently threatened bat population and ways to address new infrastructure needs in an ancient Peruvian city that was the heart of the Incan Empire. 

Clearly, some of the projects are large-scale, conceptual, and collaborative, but others can be adopted by any one of us right now. The site's combination of the inspiring and the empowering does more than provide guidelines for tackling the issues identified by the practicum's participants. It puts everyone who scrolls through the site in the proper mindset for creative problem-solving. In this way, the project forms a basis for a new system to replace the old, broken one.

Check out "Sustainable Futures" from the Guggenheim Summer Practicum.