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Get smART: Let’s Paint a Collective Vision of Sustainability

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Posted: 9:25AM April 14th, 2014 | Comments

Submitted by Lauren Beriont, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

This month, Sustain Dane will unveil a major community and sustainability initiative - smART: Sustainability + Madison + Art at Isthmus Green Day on Saturday, April 26th, 2014, and we need your hearts and hands to make it a reality.

What is smART?

smART is a major community-based art initiative designed to engage Madison neighborhoods in envisioning a sustainable, just, and healthy future for their own neighborhoods and communities. We think that this initiative has the potential to bring together people in ways that truly strengthen the social fabric, sustainability, and resilience of our neighborhoods.


Briefly, here is how the project will work – Through a series of discussion sessions and neighborhood workshops, the residents’ collective vision of sustainability will be captured by a muralist in a “blueprint.” Once final, the residents will paint the mural in the neighborhood, and we’ll throw a party to celebrate it.


The purpose of this initiative is not to just install stellar, community-created art in our neighborhoods, but also to -

●      Engage a broader and more diverse population in Madison in meaningful conversation and envisioning of public art and sustainability for their own neighborhoods

●      Strengthen a sense of place and social fabric by inviting community members to participate in the creation of collaborative and visionary art.

●      Broadcast Madison’s commitment to place, sustainability, and the arts on a national level


We also believe that -

●      The experience of collectively envisioning and creating a mural will create vibrant and aligned neighborhoods.

●      Each mural will serve as an inviting gateway to its neighborhood, representative of its residents’ culture, shared values and even concerns.

●      The murals will transform Madison into a highly visible, public, and free art destination accessible to all, leading to a richer experience living in and visiting the city.

●      The murals will affect sustainable change in Madison by serving as a visible, emotional reminder of how we plan to make our neighborhoods and city a better place to live.

●      This project will increase Madison’s national profile as a community that cares deeply and takes action to promote place, public art, and sustainability.



So, is Sustain Dane an arts organization now?


Not really. As a broad-base sustainability organization, Sustain Dane believes in the holarchy of social, environmental, and economic sustainability. Still, we recognize that community-based art can serve as a powerful vehicle to move us closer to sustainability.


In late November 2013, the Sustain Dane team was invited to participate in an intense three-day startup camp called 3DayStartup.  During this brainstorm boot camp, we hatched the idea of smART [sustainability + madison +art] and immediately went to work researching the concept, gathering community feedback, and investigating the feasibility of it. We found overwhelming evidence to pursue this idea. Since then, we have worked out early logistics to set up smART for a pilot launch this summer.


Although we’re not an arts organization, Sustain Dane does have a long and rich history working in diverse neighborhoods in our region to build community and place. Last summer, we partnered with the City of Madison, the Urban League of Greater Madison, and others to organize “Eat, Play, Bike” a wildly successful placemaking series in South Madison. smART will build off of the momentum produced by “Eat, Play, Bike” and scale it out to other parts of the city. If successful, smART will inspire conversations around sustainability across Madison neighborhoods, using art as the central vehicle of expression and empowerment.


What makes this project so compelling to Sustain Dane’s mission?


Sustainability is often framed as a challenge too large to tackle. We read stories of chaos in the news, we personally experiences changes to our climate, we are told we should care, but we aren’t often given the chance to explore our motivations and future visions both with ourselves and with our neighbors. smART is a positive community-building mural art project that presents solutions to ensure a vibrant future with unknown prospects.


At its most basic, a sustainable society is one that can meet its current natural and economic needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. A sustainable city nurtures creativity, provides exemplary educational opportunities, protects its environment, encourages responsible economic development, and advocates for and defends social justice.


At Sustain Dane we believe that art is integral to a holistic sustainable society. A vibrant future rests on a creative approach to our economy, healthy environments and strong, aligned communities.


We also believe that Madison is ripe for a project like smART. In our efforts to gauge and build community interest around sustainability and art, we have found overwhelming support and enthusiasm from both our constituents and randomly surveyed county residents.

smART is in line with the City of Madison Sustainability goals, announced in 2011, to “integrate environmental sustainability into Madison’s art program and art and design into the city’s sustainability efforts”.

Through smART, Madison has the potential to evolve into a national model for sustainability and the arts. smART will raise the appeal of the region to the next generation of professionals - the creative class.

In addition, smART will help Sustain Dane to support sustainability work across a broad community audience. Through current programming and initiatives, we making significant strides towards our vision to make the Greater Madison area a national model for sustainability and sustainability innovation. This work is entirely strengthened by the community engagement built into smART [sustainability + madison +art].


This project also connects with current impact evaluation work. We are working to develop a cohesive skeleton of indicators and metrics that can describe the changes and ripple effect that our organization inspires the Madison community. This focused evaluation of smART will help Sustain Dane refine our efforts to develop an organization-wide impact evaluation so that we can begin to truly understand and measure social change.


Next Steps and How Can You Get Involved?


We’ll be making major announcements here on our website as the project progresses this spring and summer. This summer, smART will pilot community conversations and a mural in the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood. We will learn from and leverage the momentum of this pilot project to support smART in more neighborhoods in future years.


Sustain Dane will kick off smART at Isthmus Green Day 2014 where we’ll be creating a prototype mural. Please  join us and paint your vision for a sustainable Madison at Green Day 2014


Last but not least, as a Madison resident, PLEASE contact me directly to let me know what you think, what questions you have, and if you’d like to help us move this project forward. Program Coordinator Lauren Beriont 

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