UNCG and Guilford College Create Collaborative “Compost” Exhibition

Posted on February 28, 2024

UNCG student looks at artwork in GPS

UNC Greensboro’s School of Art students are going beyond their own classroom by collaborating with students at another local University and presenting their work to the community in an exhibition featuring real-world issues.

Christopher Thomas, UNCG’s director of foundations, printmaking, and drawing, along with Guilford College Associate Professor of Art Mark Dixon, are bringing their classes together for the collaborative project centered around environmental issues.

“We share this topic of what can artists do in the space of ecology, sustainability, and even survivability, with respect to all sorts of ecological concerns, which have political, social and personal dimensions,” says Dixon. “We are starting with a very broad net and trying to gauge how our students feel about things like climate change and extinction.”


The students have been going through an “art exchange” each week – sending back and forth a box of materials, or as Thomas and Dixon call it: “a compost bin.” The exhibition of the student’s work is at Greensboro Project Space aptly titled “Compost Collab 2024.”

“We talked about these issues of ecology and sustainability from an art perspective,” says Thomas. “Compost as a metaphor is easy to grasp, it has to do with breakdown, deconstruction, or regeneration, a kind of recycling.”

Materials from the box, including prints, photos, writing, and more get turned over and reconstructed into something new.

“It is a way for us to start thinking about collaboration,” says fourth-year student Judith Briand. “We’ve been reading a book called ‘The Artist’s Way,’ which is really about taking things in and meditating on those things, while also thinking about our art in a non-distractive way.”

“We’re really thinking about compost’s ultimate complexity – how soil is unknowable and the whole breakdown is rich and fertile. It is a very confusing space,” says Dixon. “These students have the incredible challenge of moving from that space, compost, to growing something.”


And if the project seems a bit open ended – Thomas and Dixon say that’s the point. “There’s something in the uncertainty,” says Dixon. “If you’re an 18- or 22-year-old and you’ve inherited a world where there cannot be a future that looks like today, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“I don’t think anyone had an exact direction when we first started collaborating,” says Briand, who is earning her bachelor of fine arts with a concentration in new media and design. Hearing everyone’s ideas helped solidify our own direction and I think the compost box had something to do with that as well.”

Briand’s work is focused on the sustainability of fashion, particularly clothing and textiles.

“That’s where my sustainability journey started. My own relationship with the world and waste in this current climate,” she says. “I didn’t know where to start, it was overwhelming. But years ago, I stopped participating in buying new clothes and looked to renewable options.”


For the GPS exhibition, Briand has taken donated clothing from stores like Goodwill and the UNCG’s Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies open closet and printed slogans on the items to bring awareness of sustainability in the fashion industry. The piece is also interactive, with a clothing rack of available clothes for people to take, if needed.

Fourth-year student Luz Borrayo is also focusing on sustainability in fashion for her piece. Borrayo built a loom in her home as a starting point for her eventual work at GPS.

“The actual piece is the patches that I’m working on within the loom,” says Borrayo, a studio art major with a minor in women, gender, and sexuality studies. “I’ve taken a bunch of clothing and I’ve been cutting it up into strips and tying it together and looming it.”

Borrayo is working to make the project even more sustainable but using the clothing scraps to make a table mold which will hold pamphlets for people to learn more about her artwork and sustainability.

While Thomas’ class is focused on printmaking and Dixon’s is on sculpture, the students are not required to stay within one medium.  

“It’s a great opportunity for students to have a chance to extend themselves. This is also an excuse to allow young artists to work together,” says Thomas. “They’re in the same city, but they might never cross paths and it’s a missed opportunity when there’s not this chance to network and see how other people are operating.”

The “Compost Collab 2024” exhibit is on display at Greensboro Project Space until March 2. A public reception with the students will be held on February 29 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

UNCG alum Ashe Smith works on an art piece involving two TVs in Greensboro Project Space

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