Artistic & Academic Collaboration: The Campus Energy Constellation

The Campus Energy Constellation is the result of a year-long research and development project conducted collaboratively between the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI), the Pitt Office of Sustainability, and the Pitt Facilities Management Department. It began as an Undergraduate Research Project (URP) in the Summer of 2019 at MCSI, under the guidance of Dr. Melissa Bilec and Dr. Aurora Sharrard. The URP focused upon answering the following research question: How can the public and private climate actions of an organization compel and encourage pro-environmental behaviors (PEBs) among the enclosed community of that organization? This question was answered through a literature review of PEB Theory and Sustainable Development Indication, yielding a plan of action for the University of Pittsburgh to transparently communicate its intent on climate action to its enclosed communities (faculty, students, etc.) This plan involved University transparency on emissions and environmental impact, complemented by student creation of environmentalist public art works. The former action took the form of the Pitt Sustainability Dashboard, with the latter taking the form of the Campus Energy Constellation.

I took a course on Sustainable Development with Dr. Bilec; it inspired me to pursue the MCSI URP under her mentorship because of the relationship between building performance and environmental impact that was exposed during the course. This is where I met my primary mentor, Dr. Sharrard, who was a co-mentor on the URP, and the Director of the Office of Sustainability. I admired the work of Dr. Bilec and Dr. Sharrard as a student because they both have a focus on sustainability and emissions reductions on a systems-level. This directly relates to my professional goals of working to create a more just and sustainable built environment. Dr. Bilec and Dr. Sharrard have both been fantastic resources for me personally and professionally; the value of their mentorship has taught me to seek out collaborators more frequently.

Collaboration is at the root of this project. Data is used from Facilities Management, with other resources being drawn from MCSI and the Department of Sustainability. Creative direction and financial support are given from the Pitt Honors College and Pitt Year of Creativity Fund. While the concept of this project was developed individually by myself, the actual creation of the project occurred with many participants. I find that this is typically the case for most creative endeavors; the artist conceives of an idea through a set of inspirations and then utilizes resources (which are often other people) to follow through on the inspiration. Perhaps this is why we view many art pieces as a solo endeavor, when in fact they are often collaborative.

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