Peyton Hardesty is a senior at the Arts and College Preparatory Academy and is currently enrolled in the Art & Environment course for high school students here at the Wexner Center. Below, Peyton describes her experience in the semester-long course and how the course field trips and class discussions culminated into her final art project. Peyton’s video will be on display at the Wexner Center as part of Interventions: Students Respond to the Environment, on view Thursday, December 17 (at a special Opening Reception) and Saturday, December 19. One participating student will create a new artwork at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center under the mentorship of a professional artist, but they can’t do it without your support—and your vote. Donate to our power2give crowdfunding campaign and cast your vote on which Interventions artist should receive the commission.
Image courtesy of Maria DiFranco (Peyton pictured front)
I remember going to see the exhibit last year for my peers and just thinking, how cool: a group of high school students, all passionate about such a hot button topic as the environment, creating fantastic professional art and then getting to display it in such a renowned and sophisticated showcase as the Wexner Center. I mean, what kid wouldn't look at that and think, “Wow.”
Shelly Casto [course instructor and director of education at the Wexner Center] and Maria DiFranco [Art & Environment intern] have done a fantastic job of engaging us in the material. We meet every Wednesday, and it's truly something I look forward to. There are always passionate discussions between us students, driven by our educators and each other—it's just a bunch of eco-nerds getting together to rant and rave, really. I feel like I have collected just as much—if not more—valuable knowledge through the course as I would any other science class. Shelly runs a lot of the course online—given we only meet once a week—and our Haiku page, the online platform designed specifically for the course, is stocked full of resources, supplementary material, readings and studies, news articles, etc.
In the course we take a few field trips. This year, we went to the Grange Insurance Audubon Center here in Columbus, a coal power plant in West Virginia, and the Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware, which is where I got the inspiration for my project. Stratford has a few bee boxes (hives). I had always been terribly afraid of bees, avoiding them at all costs. However, before we visited Stratford I had been doing some reading about Colony Collapse Disorder (as posted to our page via Shelly) and grew to be concerned and a bit overwhelmed.
Image courtesy of Maria DiFranco
You see, bees are like tiny slaves. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but it's true. We stick them in boxes and ship them around to a few different farms a year where they are forced to feed and pollinate on thousands of the same species. That's like us only ever being able to eat green beans for the rest of our lives and having no option of refusal. In addition, the crop that they're activating is sprayed with deadly, debilitating pesticides while the bees are feeding. So, add a little poison to your green beans—a slow acting one that will kill you over a span of numerous years.
Image courtesy of Maria DiFranco
With all of this in the back of my mind, we're approaching the bee hives at Stratford, and I'm thinking—I feel for you. It was strange, difficult, even, to connect with nature that way. I can't really communicate with bees but we both have instinct, we both have circumstance, and we both have someone else in control of our lives and behavior. I feel for them, I really do. And I walked right up to those bee boxes—as close as the guide would let me—just absolutely fascinated.
Image courtesy of Peyton Hardesty, still from video, Buzz Ur Perspective (2015)
I have pieced together a film where I intend to explore the energy, community, and pain of bees. A good bit of my footage is shot from the "perspective of a bee"—I was trying to mimic the flight pattern of a bee with my lens, with shaky technique and obscure zooms and focus. I also projected a swarm of bees onto myself and filmed that. It looks pretty rad.
I think the only challenge that I have encountered in the class would be that it is so difficult to find people outside of the course who are as willing to shout about bees and trees and oil spills, you know? I leave every Wednesday with this sort of overwhelming excitement and passion and I want to tell everyone what I know and what we should be doing, but it is rarely received with the same enthusiasm. My hopes are that this course will encourage more students and people from the community who go to see the exhibit to get fired up—to start ranting and raving.