Contributing via Alternative Spring Break
At the end of March, students participating in Alternative Spring Break traveled to Acadia National Park to create, plan and execute a service experience from the ground up.
For this year’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB), four students traveled to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, ME to observe and study the biodiversity of the federally protected area before taking a hands-on role in conservation and related projects. Supported by the Center for Student Involvement (CSI), Benjamin Bergman 21 IL, Pooja Nitturkar 20 GD, Sam Northcut 21 PR and Liviah Yeaw 21 TX created a comprehensive plan for environmental service similar to last year’s ASB experience at the Delaware Water Gap. After returning to campus, they reflected on what they learned through the experience.
Had you done any service or environmental work in the past? What motivated you to get involved with ASB?
Sam Northcut: Prior to coming to RISD I served in soup kitchens and elementary schools close to home in Evanston, IL (just north of Chicago), and was a family leader and board member with Best Buddies Illinois. I wanted to get involved with the community as soon as I started school here, so last year I took part in RISD POSE [Pre-Orientation Service Experience] and was a station leader for this year’s MLK Day of Service. I thought ASB would be a great way to understand what it’s like to be responsible for an entire service project.
Liviah Yeaw: I grew up in Rhode Island and have done service work at Artists' Exchange in Cranston as well as at daycares and breadline programs. I also did POSE and plan on being a leader next year.
Benjamin Bergman: Before coming here I volunteered at Gallery 263 in Cambridge, MA. I haven’t had much experience with environmental work but I like biology, so volunteering at Acadia interested me.
Why did you want to work at Acadia?
Sam: Of all the places we contacted, Acadia offered the best opportunities for us to contribute as artists.
Liviah: Acadia is an absolutely amazing place—and they needed help. And since we were a small group, the work was a true team effort.
Ben: ASB is like living as a family for a week. Often our best brainstorming took place around the dinner table.
What are some of the projects you worked on?
Liviah: We did everything from monitoring peregrine falcons and painting buoys to redesigning volunteer flyers and sprucing up (tree pun! :) their offices with murals and a new logo.
Our most impactful work was the flyer redesign. Acadia really needs more volunteers... so we amped up their outreach by creating more accessible information for volunteers.
Ben: The outcome of our work was promising. Park officials are enthusiastic about working with RISD volunteers in the future—and we’ve already been invited back next year to paint the visitor center.
How does being involved with ASB and service learning in general relate to your creative practice? Why is doing this kind of work important to you while you're at RISD?
Sam: I think that finding ways to mesh art and service is still a new and exciting idea that definitely deserves more exploration. Artists offer unique perspectives and ways of thinking about service projects and problems.
Liviah: Experiences like ASB remind me that the gigantic charcoal drawing homework looming over my head isn't the only thing that matters—that I am not the most important thing. Service gives me a chance to do something that’s selfless and isn’t driven by anything other than improving something or helping make someone’s life better.
For this year’s Alternative Spring Break, emerging student activists turned their attention to environmental conservation in the Delaware Water Gap.
Students participating in this year’s Alternative Spring Break project traveled to Washington, DC to investigate a diversity of approaches to political activism.
Incoming students who signed up for this year’s Pre-Orientation Service Experience (POSE) learned about the needs of off-campus communities by volunteering at local nonprofits.