Earlier this year, Adam Helmers sorted waste in front of the University Community Centre (UCC) as an art activism piece. This week, he is artistic director of Echo Arts Festival, a new festival that marries art and sustainability.
Echo aims to engage students with ideas about sustainability through creative expression. The festival includes the work from eight student-artists and London’s Poet Laureate, Tom Cull. The work ranges from multimedia, to poetry, to installation and beyond.
“The way I personally see it is art activism, taking art out of the gallery and using creative expression to deal with issues of sustainability that range from homelessness to food waste,” says Helmers, a fourth-year School for Advanced Studies in the Arts and Humanities (SASAH) student.
The festival is born out of Helmers's SASAH capstone project, which asks the question of how to engage students with ideas about sustainability on university campuses. In September, Helmers began researching sustainability reports and policies from other universities and decided to take a creative arts approach to engaging students.
Sorting waste on Concrete Beach was a necessary first step before organizing Echo alongside five second-year students, who he hopes will continue organizing the festival in future years.
The festival’s name, Echo, relates to Helmers's past experience with EnviroWestern. He feels that messages of sustainability on campus often go into an echo chamber — they are heard, but students don’t follow up with action.
Through Echo, Helmers hopes to remedy this inaction. Each artwork will have a QR tag that, when scanned, will take the viewer to the artist’s website which includes a call to action.
“The idea is to give whoever accesses the showcase something to do in response to the issue,” Helmers says.
Some of the calls to action include participating in the Thames River Valley Cleanup and taking reusable bags to the grocery store.
While these calls to action seem simple, Helmers emphasizes that these small decisions have a larger impact.
“It does come down to your choices in the moment, and when you're in the situation where you can choose a more sustainable option, you have the power to do it,” he says. “And that will make a difference."
Echo is taking place this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at varying times and locations on campus that will be announced daily. Subscribe here to get the secret locations emailed to you, or check out the Facebook page.