Exhibit combines environmental awareness, art

NEWS_The Green Dream

Wynwood Art Walk has become a staple of Miami culture. The monthly event is at the forefront of  not only art, but also philanthropic initiatives.

Saturday’s Art Walk will mark the second time that The Green Dream at Wynwood exhibit is displayed since it was first shown in March. The Green Dream at Wynwood is an art exposition where visitors can participate in the Art Walk gallery experience as well as engage with University of Miami juniors Smitha Vassan and Mary Wissinger’s environmental awareness project.

Wissinger and Vassan came up with the idea when they attended the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference in 2014. It originated as a CGI U commitment with the purpose of spreading environmental awareness.

“The idea started during last year’s CGI U, where we did a project to raise awareness about sea level rise in Miami,” Wissinger said. “The whole idea was to spread environmental awareness in the community, but we realized we shouldn’t just focus on sea level rise.”

They decided to create a greenhouse out of a shipping container while exposing it in an area where people could engage in conversation about topics like sea level rise, pollution and wildlife. The pair then attended this year’s CGI U conference in Miami with their revamped project.

After partnering with beefree media, a marketing firm that focuses on “innovative campaigning and conceptualization,” the pair obtained a shipping container that they plan to transform into a greenhouse.

Wissinger and Vassan are using the media company’s space to create an event around their project. The shipping container is already at the gallery, so visitors can see where the greenhouse will be built.

Wissinger and Vassan also enlisted the help of the School of Architecture and UM’s chapter of U.S. Green Building Council, where they serve as president and vice president, respectively.

“We just want to get people thinking about this in their every day lives,” Vassan said. “Our idea was to have a gallery where you can find art, but it’s art about social activism and environmental awareness.”

The project is currently budgeted at $30,000, making Wissinger and Vassan’s next challenge organizing fundraisers.

Vassan says that they have already made a lot of progress in the pursuit of their dream.

“When we look at this in retrospective and think of where we started out and where we are now, that’s gonna be the thing that blows my mind and realize that we can actually do stuff,” Vassan said.

The pair expects to have the greenhouse completed by the next Art Basel, which usually takes place in December.

Junior Ashley Dixon saw The Green Dream at Wynwood exhibit the first time it was shown.

“It’s inspiring to see how you can really make a dream into a reality,” Dixon said. “I also didn’t think about how Miami would be affected by climate change because we’re so densely populated. It definitely made me think about how urgent the need for change really is.”

Other features of the event include live music, free falafel for the first 50 attendees and free Bai tea bottles, which can be recycled on the spot through a seedling-planting workshop.

Wissinger and Vassan explained that what first began as a crazy idea and a half joke  soon grew into a bigger dream. They plan on incorporating an Aquaponic food-growth system into the greenhouse, which works by growing food in water and using fish to produce waste that can act as a fertilizer. The produced food would be distributed or sold to locals and local businesses, such as Wynwood Kitchen & Bar.

“It’s our dream, but we want this dream to live forever, so our goal is to make everyone more actively involved,” Wissinger said. “A lot of people are trying to do the same things, but separately, so if we all just get together this could make an impact in Miami and even influence other cities.”

The Green Dream at Wynwood exhibit can be visited every second Saturday of the month during Wynwood Art Walk at 2313 N. Miami Ave., Miami, Fla. 33127 (beefree media space). For more information on how to get involved, email umiamiusgbc@gmail.com or like them on Facebook at The Green Dream at Wynwood.