Understanding air quality through community-based art
Air pollution is “almost like an invisible beast,” says Daniel Granias, an art teacher with the Right Brain Initiative.
He has been working with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) and Oregon Environmental Council to increase awareness of air quality issues in the Jade District and foster engagement around the issue. The Jade District is a hotspot for air pollution due to its proximity to major highways and traffic.
Daniel says that, in speaking with youth and public health groups about air pollution: “It’s something they all know is real, and they all have a passing understanding of its importance, but no solid grip on changing it and its immediate effects.”
Daniel’s specialty is arts integration. With APANO and OEC, he is facilitating a series of community art workshops to discuss the causes of air pollution and its impacts. He pairs the discussion with a creative process in which community members contribute to an art piece using up-cycled materials such as plastic bags and disposable face masks. Community members illustrate the problem of air pollution on their masks, which Daniel will weave into a tapestry.
Daniel says he wanted to “create a symbolic comb, in the way that a fishing net combs the rivers for fish. This would be a way of drawing people’s attention to combing the air of all of the harmful particles.”
Daniel is currently conducting workshops with Portland Community College students, the Youth Environmental Justice Alliance, and other schools and community organizations in the Jade District. We hope that Daniel’s “place-making” project, engaging with community members about air quality, will generate both awareness about the impacts of air pollution in the Jade District, and increased desire to find solutions, such as stronger diesel legislation in Oregon.
“Talking about this issue is only the first step, but it’s an important step,” says Daniel. “I want this project to draw visual attention to this invisible beast.”