Find out about sustainability courses offered at MassArt each semester by searching in Davinci the content tag: Sustainability Content.

A selection of courses to consider (please note these are not taught every semester and this is not a comprehensive list).


Amber Tourlentes, Studio Foundation , Time: Accumulate

This Course asks the questions: how and where is culture and how is community being produced and sustained. Through the lens of social and environmental justice how is cultural production, design and art making being reimagined?The course will draw on your capacity to see and think both critically and sympathetically into durational/time-based thought modes. We will be screening projects by artist, designers who are working with sustainability; environmental and community based projects. We will study and create projects involving mapping/drawing, photography, sound, video, installation, web, and artist books.What are some of the new forms of social and artistic capital such as intervening into systems of production and distribution, slow design principles, and community sharing skills and resources. We will view/discuss interdisciplinary projects from 1960’s to present, artists engaging–working with audience, community and reimagining; form, material, labor, function, resources, and sustainability.

Barbara Bosworth, Photography, MPPH-323-02 Lyric Arts of the Sea

Who we are as human beings has been profoundly shaped by the sea; and we, in turn, continue to be drawn to the sea as a site of contemplation and source of inspiration. This course will introduce you to some of the great visual art and lyric literature that the sea has inspired, and will also give you the chance to create work directly influenced by the sea.

During the spring semester, we will look at and read a range of visual art and poetry inspired by the sea. Assignments during the semester are intended to immerse you in the visual and verbal traditions of sea-related art.  

Maura Smyth, LA/literature, LALW-411-01 Man vs. Wild, and Other Stories We Tell About Nature Wednesday 9:45-12:45

Droughts scorch the Middle East and the American southwest. Wildfires rip across Indonesia. Rising sea levels are already beginning to swallow up island nations, and warming waters are decimating ocean life. As the effects of climate change wreak havoc on human societies and ecosystems across the globe, they also shine an increasingly bright spotlight on how human beings think about and interact with the natural world. This class will explore changing attitudes toward nature over several centuries, including, and especially, the present day. We will discuss the role that writing and art have played in shaping our understanding of the natural world over time. We will also explore how writers, artists, and filmmakers are confronting the representational challenges posed by climate change today.

Over the course of the semester, you will undertake research on an interdisciplinary project that investigates a site of human-nature interaction of your choosing, traces its impact on the world, and explores creative ways to express this impact. You will receive feedback on this project in beginning, intermediary, and final stages, and it will include both written and creative components. We will have several exciting opportunities to broaden our perspectives on this topic. First, this course will be participating in the interdisciplinary Sustainability Studio in the DMC, through which we will open several of our classes to the public. Second, we will meet multiple times over the semester with Professor Nava’s summative elective course, which approaches many of the issues we will be addressing from a scientific perspective that will deepen our humanistic one.

Marika Preziuso, LA/Literature, LALW-508-01 Imagining Others: from Strangers to Cyborgs

This course invites you to forge connections between the ways in which literature, critical theory, visual arts, and popular culture have produced “others”, from “strangers” to post-human “others”, including androids, cyborgs and AI. In class we will reflect on the ways in which writers, artists and thinkers have challenged the dichotomy Self vs. Other, with its cognate opposites: life vs. death, white vs. black, good vs. evil, male vs. female, animate vs. inanimate, humans vs. the natural world.

Due to its integration of writing, reading, art critiquing and art making, Imagining Others is an ideal course for artists approaching their final projects in their major departments.

Jane Marsching, Studio Foundation, TIME: Ecology and Art

Nature, landscape, earth, environment, climate: so many words for the natural world that surrounds us. This class looks at the current state of the natural world: its beauty and peril, its sublime and polluted aspects. Projects will address the climate crisis through the lens of time. We will create projects that engage sustainability and resilience as creative responses in art and design to our imperiled future. Themes of gardening, recycling, composting, waste, consumerism, growth, visual communication, and design for change will be our focus.We will play with fundamental concepts of time in art including narrative, duration, tempo, and others through projects in a variety of media including sound, video, multiple image sequences, and books. Collaborative, research, and performative practices will be explored.


Jennifer Cole, LA/Science
, Eating and the Environment

Eating and the Environment focuses on the impact that our daily food purchases and consumption make on the environment and our health.  In the class, we will examine major themes related to both industrialized and sustainable agriculture, including: soil resources and pollution; water and air pollution; pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers; the farm bill; tropical deforestation; food additives and nutritional supplements; food safety and emerging infectious diseases; meat and dairy sustainability ramifications; GMOs; and climate change. This course gives students the tools they need to understand what constitutes environmentally friendly and healthy food. Choosing these leads to a higher quality of life in many ways.  There is no bigger impact on Earth than agriculture. And food consumption has the single largest impact on our health.

Kristian DeMary, LA/Science,  Sustainability Science

What is the nature of sustainability? How can we learn from and with nature, its biological diversity and ecosystems, to become more resilient? Practical examples, field visits, readings, and discussions will give students the opportunity to learn about emerging interdisciplinary sciences and solution-driven technologies based on green chemistry and biomimicry. Through explorations of the water-energy-food nexus, adaptations to climate change, and sea level rise, students can explore how we can become self-sustainable in the era of Anthropocene. The intention of the course is to give students a greater understanding of how science can inform public policies. In addition, attention will be paid to how science relates to art and design making, and vice versa.

Related courses taught in the DMC during S17

Saul Nava, LA/ Science,  LAMS-401-01 BioAesthetics and the Human Animal

This course explores aesthetics in nature and the evolutionary processes of sensory drive and natural and sexual selection. The course will critically examine both anthropocentric and ecological schemes on the aesthetic diversity of nature, focusing on the creative agency of non-human organisms and objective and subjective models of inquiry. The course evaluates and challenges historical, contemporary and emerging perspectives on what is art, who/what can create it, and on interactions between science and art. Through a combination of discussion, guest lectures and collaborative projects students will explore various topics focused around the biological and evolutionary bases of creativity, art and design.

Judith Leemann, 3D
   3DFB 215-01 Performing Cloth

This course examines two related questions: How might the processes involved in making and altering cloth shape performative practices? When, and in what ways, can cloth itself be seen as performing? Students are exposed to the work of contemporary artists and designers whose work takes up these questions and to relevant critical writing and theory. The course deliberately confuses the creative and the critical, structure and outcome. Assignments will address issues of labor, handcraft, spectacle, community, and narrative, and will move back and forth between making (objects, surfaces, images, performances) and research (looking, reading, writing.) Class instruction will include introductions to basic fiber processes; no prior experience in fiber or performance is expected.

Jenn Varekamp, Fashion
,   Culture, Dress, and Identity

This course will examine the relationship between culture, dress and identity. We will look broadly across the world at how dress and adornment are an extension of one’s culture and identity and compare and contrast this to our own.  We will explore the significance of dress through rituals, ceremonies and rites of passages as well as through a social and political lens. We will also examine the effects of globalization on dress and what this means in our contemporary world and how this is leading us into the future.

Another layer to the class is looking at indigenous groups and the techniques and handwork used within the realm of dress and the larger global impact on some of these techniques diminishing and the repercussions on a particular culture and one’s identity. Also, we look at the breakdown of culture into sub-cultures both now and from a historical perspective.


Maura Smyth, Utopic Worlds, Liberal Arts
What does an ideal society look like? How is it defined, and how do these definitions change fromage to age, and depending on who is defining it? Has humanity, as Wilde suggests, already achieved it many times over—and, if so, what does it mean that we continually leave it behind? Is there ever—or is there always—a cost to obtaining an idealized world? Is it inevitable, as Max Beerbohn thinks, that good places inevitably become horrid ones, that utopia must shade into dystopia?

In this course, we will explore a variety of utopias, a word that translates to “no-place” (from the Greek ou “not” + topos “place”). We will together explore, across essays, novels, short stories, film, and tv, a variety of these “no-places”: utopias that are good (how we commonly think of utopias) and bad (which we often call dystopias), as well as the oft-blurry line between them. Some utopias are hopeful and confident in the ability of humanity to be better, while others are more ambiguous, offering alternatives to the way things are with a self-critical edge, an awareness that perfection can have a dark side. All are imagined places with a relationship to reality and to existing systems, and it is this fundamental attribute of utopias will provide our organizing rubric for the course. After exploring the origins of utopia and a few of its present-day iterations, we will encounter utopias that reject a given system entirely and imagine radical alternatives in its place; as well as ones that seek to change and better the system from within. We will delve into good places and bad places and places in between. As we do, you will consider—as students, artists, and citizens—utopic alternatives to the social, political, and economic systems that comprise our American society.

Jennifer Carr, Biomimicry, LAMS-201-01
Biomimicry is the study of the structure and function of biological systems as models for the design and engineering of materials. In this course, we will practice studying biological systems and solving problems by mimicking nature. Through this process, we will cover basic concepts in biology, physics and engineering.  In doing so we will see how science has affected diverse fields such as art, robotics, sculpture, architecture and photography. Students will have the opportunity to discover scientific and environmental concepts in the world around them and incorporate these concepts into their artwork with the goal of demonstrating complex scientific or environmental problems through the lens of an artist.

Jill Thibault, Surface Design on Fabric: Print, Fibers 3DFB226

An introduction to various methods of screen printing on fabric with dyes and pigments. Projects incorporate photographic and cut stencil techniques used in one of kind imagery and repeat pattern surfaces. Emphasis is on personal expression and technical experimentation.  **This semester the course will incorporate an experimental approach to thinking about zero waste and how questions of sustainability can inform approaches to printing on fabric.


TIME: States of Urgency, Stephanie Cardon, Studio Foundation

State of Urgency asks you to define what is most critically at stake for you, your communities, your generation. The urgency will carry over into our practice in this class, in which speed sometimes will be of the essence. Together, we will develop techniques and working processes that allow us to work fast (experimenting with project proposals and collaborative making, writing short form texts, editing 6 second videos, creating multiples.) Through our exploration of time-based media (sequential art, video, sound), and forms that range from the documentary to the hypothetical, we will consider questions of audience, message, medium and dissemination. We will look at a wide variety of works in the field of art, design, architecture that responds and calls attention to urgent needs. The content of this class will address questions of sustainability: the overlap of society, economy and environment.

This class will encourage a supportive, focused, oftentimes collaborative environment in which to explore critical issues that are meaningful for those in attendance. Reading, writing, field trips and group exercises will be required.


Max Grinnel, Global Problems, Local Solutions, FRSM

In the early 21st century, we are faced with a seemingly overwhelming set of problems, ranging from environmental degradation to homelessness.
This course will provide students the opportunity to take a critical look at some of these most pressing issues via case studies, guest lectures, and other materials. As scholars and policy experts are also now recognizing the continued importance of “acting local” we will take a close look at how different groups and organizations in and around Boston are responding to some of these pressing challenges.