Pitzer College and SPURSE Launch Campus-wide Ecological Initiative

Multi-Species CommonsClaremont, Calif. (February 9, 2015)—Pitzer College’s Art + Environment program and SPURSE, an environmental design collective, launch Pitzer Multi-Species Commons—a new way to understand and interact with the Pitzer College campus. Across the College’s grounds, signs and sculptural works made from reclaimed materials prompt Pitzer’s community to see campus as a space shared by many species.

“What makes this project so unique is that it asks ‘What does it mean to be of a place?’ in a manner that gives all members of the Pitzer community a way to see that you are part of an astonishingly rich urban ecosystem,” said Associate Professor of Art Tim Berg, the facilitator for the Art + Environment project. “This project offers you a deep, complex and sustained way to interact as a critical part of this ecosystem.”

This semester, Pitzer students, faculty, staff and visitors will discover a variety of installations integrated into the campus landscape. A reclaimed tree trunk elevated on metal posts can be seen as a potential lunch spot, or a work of art, or both. Traditional ceramic vessels, created by a Pitzer student, mimic a 2,000-year-old form of irrigation that captures and cleans water as it percolates through earthenware into the ground. A new “foraging kitchen” in the West Hall Demonstration Kitchen encourages cooking using local plants.

Foraging is a central element of the Pitzer Multi-Species Commons. Eating what is growing on the Pitzer College campus—from mustard greens to prickly pear cacti—directly connects people to the ecosystem all around them, interlinking the health of the individual and the health of the land.

This large-scale, campus-wide ecological project evolved out of a collaboration led by SPURSE and Pitzer’s Art + Environment initiative. This project has been a year and a half in the making —involving Pitzer students, faculty, staff and community members in all aspects of the project’s design and construction. Project leaders solicited input through classes, workshops, open meetings and building sessions led by SPURSE.

Inspired by Pitzer College’s core values of environmental sustainability and social responsibility, and taking Pitzer’s motto, Provida Futuri, “Mindful of the Future,” as inspiration, project leaders sought to challenge both themselves and the campus community to ask, Whose future are we being mindful of? Are we being mindful of the future of non-humans as well as humans?

“We have to rethink the notion of ‘the commons,’” Berg said. “The commons are everywhere, and we share the space with other species.”

Project highlights include:

  • The Multi-Species Negotiation Center, located in the northwest corner of the garden created in the footprint of Holden Hall, is made from rammed earth and locally sourced logs and rock. This gathering spot contains a large map, a chalkboard for sharing information about foraging and an experimental irrigation/planting area designed to help propagate spontaneous migrant plant growth.
  • Maps at multiple sites across campus designate zones for ongoing experimentation and ask viewers to reinterpret Pitzer’s grounds as a complex urban ecosystem.
  • An interactive website includes ecological information, foraging recipes and an extensive reading list. The website allows users to tag plants on an interactive map and add notes about how and where to forage food.
  • A fig tree will be the centerpiece of a sculpture located outside West Hall, Pitzer’s newest LEED Platinum-certified, mixed-used residence hall. Working with groundskeepers, a fig tree will be planted on the sculpture platform. This living sculpture will slowly spread its canopy, providing fruit for current and future generations.

For more information or questions related to the project please contact [email protected].

Pitzer College’s Art + Environment initiative explores the intersection of the arts and the environment. The program is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About Pitzer College

Pitzer College is a nationally top-ranked undergraduate liberal arts and sciences institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility, and community involvement. For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu.

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