As you walk the well-worn paths of your daily life, what environments do you exist within?
This is one of the questions Allison Tran ’26, founder of the student arts organization Carls with Artistic Taste (CAT), posed to the artists creating work for the “Dear Earth” exhibition — and continues to pose to the viewers of the exhibition.
The exhibition was spearheaded by CAT, and fifteen pieces of environmental artwork are on display in the Center for Global and Regional Studies on the third floor of LDC. “‘Dear Earth’ is an environmental art exhibition that seeks to show how Carleton students connect with nature and the climate crisis,” Tran explained. Student artists were invited to “[explore] their emotional connection to nature and new ways we can help the planet and climate-vulnerable communities across the globe.”
The “Dear Earth” exhibition is the second large event CAT has hosted since being chartered last term, and the organization has already proved itself as a productive space for encouraging the artistic endeavors of students and providing a platform for them to be seen. Tran is extremely pleased with the role CAT has already begun to play on campus, stating that “along with organizing creative art events, hosting student art shows is one of CAT’s primary goals — we believe student artists deserve spaces to share their work on campus, and we aim to celebrate the incredible community of artists Carleton has to offer.”
When brainstorming ideas for what their next event should look like, Tran thought about these goals alongside CAT’s standing interest in environmental sustainability. CAT had previously hosted another event that was centered on food waste and how it can be reflected through art. The organization had a stockpile of artworks from the event and wanted to exhibit them alongside other environmental art.
Thus, the idea for “Dear Earth” was born: “Our team decided to create an environmental-themed exhibition that showcases student artworks from our past events along with new submissions from the wider campus community,” Tran said. “Through the ingenuity of artists and [the] passion of environmental leaders, the ‘Dear Earth’ Exhibition aims to spark new, fresh perspectives on environmental sustainability. Wherever you are in the world, we invite you to consider the environment around you.”
After calling for submissions to the exhibition, CAT was given fifteen pieces of environmental artwork that embodied a variety of thought-provoking reflections on the climate crisis. The exhibition also features a wide range of artistic mediums, from landscape painting and photography to etching and burning. Despite the variance in medium, each piece is connected to the others by way of exploring emotional connections to nature and how the climate crisis plays a role in them.
Rahim Hamid ‘26 was one student who submitted work to the show. They reflected on the importance of having spaces for students to display their work, especially when it’s pertinent to real-world issues: “Having spaces that are filled with art, particularly art made by people who share the same living space or communal space as you, makes everything feel more lived-in — as though actual people have passed through said spaces and put consideration into making that space their own. I find myself asking when faced with the often-bare walls around campus: if all the students disappeared today, what traces of ourselves would we leave behind in the public spaces we move through and spend so much time in? Having students able to display their work to the rest of the student body is a key part of building a sense of community here and realizing that actual human beings occupy Carleton.”
Additionally, the exhibition showcases a collection of still lives that depict food waste generated from the dining halls at Carleton. Tran pointed out the significance — and the paradox — of these still lives being displayed in LDC: “[It’s kind of] a full-circle moment now that the art is exhibited in the same building where the food waste was produced.”
Upon viewing the exhibition, Tran, and CAT as a whole, “[hope] that viewers will be able to appreciate the talents of their peers and… foster a love of art and creativity. CAT’s primary goal is always to cater to the creativity of the vibrant student body of Carleton, and this is no exception! First and foremost, we want our viewers to be inspired to do what they do best: let out their creativity in the most beautiful way possible.”
Tran also notes that, while all responding to a broad theme, “The messages behind each work are uniquely different from one another.” Walking out of the exhibition, she “[hopes] viewers received a well-rounded understanding of the perspective of Carleton students when it comes to the environment.”
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