The SANDBOX: Creativity in the Environment

By Caitlyn Maltese
Elm Staff Writer

Director of the Sandbox and Art Lecturer at Washington College, Alex Castro, leads WC’s new art initiative in fostering more collaboration between various departments on campus and the community.

The Sandbox is a unique and interactive art exhibit in downtown Chestertown funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Fundation.
The Sandbox is a unique and interactive art exhibit in downtown Chestertown funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Fundation.

Its goal is to engage the environment in a new, creative way. The Sandbox sponsors lectures, courses, and interdisciplinary artistic projects through funding by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “It is an initiative to energize faculty and students about bringing science and art together,” said Castro.

“Sandboxes are where we’ve all done our first creative work,” he said. “Most of us put our hands in the sand and made something with friends, usually as little kids.”

Through the project, students have the ability to take unique art courses, like environmental and public art. This course is cross-listed and can be applied for credit under multiple departments. “Not many art students are in it. It’s a lot of environmental studies and some biology…[students] taking it,” said Sean Meade, a 2012 graduate and current program assistant for the exhibit.

“The interesting thing about it is [students] come into it without any preconceptions….They are not sure what art is and how you would do it in the environment but in the end their ideas are very crisp and usually the more strong,” said Castro.

Students are encouraged to redefine what they call art. They are allowed to,  “be creative in a very fundamental way,” he said.

Besides academic courses, the organization strives to energize the community. Last year for Earth Day the Sandbox sponsored a midnight mural attack. “We started at 8 p.m. and we finished at 2:45 in the morning. You might have seen the mural as you come in from the athletic fields, by Gibson [Center for the Arts], it’s that thing on the wall. It was done in one night. It was done by 30 or 40 students who got together and had no idea what they were going to do at first…They got together and…all collaborated on what the form would be, and they nailed it,”  Castro said.

“We are about energy,” said Meade. “We want to push people to act and do creative stuff.”

Community members gather at the Sandbox to discuss art.
Community members gather at the Sandbox to discuss art.

Each year, the Sandbox features a distinguished visitor. Last year, it was sculptor John Ruppert, who’s work was featured in the Kohl Gallery. This year, Ruppert will return. “He’s thinking about doing something that involves light on the Chester River Bridge,” said Castro.

This year, the Sandbox welcomes new visitors: architect Ronit Eisenbach, choreographer Cassie Meador, composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, and scientist Jeni Wightman. “We are really excited because [instead] of just one distinguished visitor, we have four young women,” said Castro.

Part of the mission of the Sandbox is to continue building bridges between various departments all over campus. They have already worked with the Center for Environment and Society and the Dance department and are looking into connecting with the CV Starr Center.

One of the people the Sandbox have recently worked with last year is Natalie Jereminjenko. “She has advanced degrees in science and she teaches art at NYU. She’s kind of the poster child of what Sandbox is all about,” said Castro.

“She is always looking for projects that highlight a larger issue,” said Meade. “One idea of hers was to put black duct work on the side of a skyscraper in New York with a filter on top of it and just the convection shaft effect would suck hot air from the street and carbon ash from the road, and exhaust would catch on the filter. Then she can scrap it off and make filtrate for pencil which can then be sold.”

Jereminjenko uses art to draw attention to overarching problems. She looks at the world in a way that the Sandbox aspires.

One of the core values is to get the community involved. The Sandbox is located in downtown Chestertown at 107 Cross St. to serve as a place where community members and students alike can hang out. “Come down, sit, [and] enjoy,” said Castro.

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