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'Earth Day Every Day' Chalk Art Contest fuses sustainability, creativity

Students and artists engage in expression through artistic innovation and environmental awareness outside Neeb Hall in Tempe


Former ASU student Anthony Eli Farias draws with chalk during the "Earth Day Every Day" Chalk Art Competition outside Neeb Hall on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Tempe.

Students and artists transformed the sidewalk of Neeb Hall into a vibrant mosaic where creativity and sustainability intertwined for the "Earth Day Every Day" Chalk Art Design Contest, a collaboration between University Sustainability Practices and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

The April 2 competition kicked off the University's month-long celebration of Earth Day, with participants challenged to create chalk art designs inspired by sustainability.

First, second, and third-place winners for the chalk art received a Hydro Flask, solar speaker, fanny pack, and an "Earth Day Every Day" shirt, according to the USP's Instagram. 

Kirby Skoric, an event coordinator for the Herberger Institute who helped organize the competition, earned a master's degree from the School of Sustainability before joining the institute.

"Chalk art has always been a part of celebrating sustainability here at ASU, but now that I work for the Herberger Institute, we thought we could merge the two entities (USP and the Herberger Institute) on campus and make dual events," Skoric said.

Some of the art designs were submitted in advance and selected for the event, but as curious students passed by, some also picked up chalk and joined in the creative fun. 

"Art plays a huge role in sustainability just because it's able to fall on people's heartstrings," Skoric said, "It's very therapeutic to just kind of get out here and just make art with some great people and also celebrate Earth Month at the same time." 

Vidal Duarte is a senior studying architecture. At the event, he drew an agave plant using chalk with the message, "Growth Takes Time."

"The funny thing about agave is that there's no true center," Duarte said. "There’s a core that it grows from, but it's constantly growing. The idea behind the piece is that growth takes time, just for everything beautiful."

Sustainability campaigns often focus on data and studies, which can leave people overwhelmed on their own.

"I always love combining sustainability and art because a big part of sustainability is messaging," Madison Harris, a graduate student studying sustainability solutions and a management intern for USP, said. "So art and creativity are a great way to convey messages and bring light to some of the scary topics like climate change."

Harris and other participants believed that art has the potential to initiate discussions on pressing environmental issues.

Anthony "Eli" Farias, a professional artist known for his murals in and around Phoenix, admired the event's conciseness. "It's here today, gone tomorrow. It doesn't leave a permanent mark," he said, which aligns with sustainability's ethos of giving back more than what was taken.

"I graduated from ASU," Farias said. "So it's nice to be able to come back and share the artwork with new students and new communities around here. It's like a full circle."

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Paige Strickland, a graduate student studying sustainability solutions and the sustainability program manager, emphasized the competition's inclusive spirit.

"Anyone could have signed up," Strickland said. "We had three official entries, and the rest were walk-ins. It's all about expression, and art provides a medium for people to share their unique experiences with sustainability."

Harris said she hopes the University community can enjoy the art on the sidewalk for as long as it's around, or at least until the next time it rains. 

Participants illustrated their commitment to a greener, more sustainable future throughout the day. Neeb Hall's steps became a testament to the power of art in fostering environmental consciousness and inspiring positive change.

Sophia Braccio contributed to this story.

Edited by Sophia Braccio, Walker Smith and Grace Copperthite.

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