Social & Environmental Pollinators: An Art Installation to Provoke Dialogue and Action

For its 40th anniversary, the UIC Latino Cultural Center engaged ten local artists from the Chicago Latino community to conceptualize, repurpose, and paint ten concrete ash urns that were part of the campus grounds until it became a smoke-free campus. This art installation was designed to became part of LCC and UIC Heritage Garden satellites and tours. The ten artists painted the concrete urns with their interpretation of “social pollinators” and animal pollinators.

The Latino Cultural Center conceptualized artists as social pollinators, because they help to share ideas and spark the seeds of change as active cultural workers, addressing important community challenges through creative practices. Equally, animal pollinators, the vast majority of which are insects and birds, are vital to our food chain. This includes butterflies, bees, ants, beetles, wasps, moths, hummingbirds, and bats–the only mammals that can fly! The metaphor in this connection is that both animal pollinators and artists need to be protected and nourished because without animal pollinators, humans would not have much to eat, and without arts and cultural resources, the world will lose the most influential source of creativity needed to solve common challenges and enrich our lives. The artists painted the ten urns during the Latino Cultural Center’s 40th anniversary celebration September 14 and 15, 2016.

The art installation is in the bioswale across from the north wall of the LCC, where it has also joined the UIC Heritage Garden Satellites and the LCC’s Gallery tours, offered in Spring, Summer, and Fall each year. The pollinators project links to the Monarch Habitat Satellite and a storytelling project to engage families to share their connections with the natural environment, specifically Monarchs. Stories and best practices adapted from their homelands or learned in Chicago can help conserve and create Monarch habitats in the Midwest and Mexico. The stories are featured in the LCC and Heritage Garden websites as part of our ongoing project with the USDA Forest Service – International Programs.