I checked out the detail on the brightly-colored paleta cart in front of me while I talked to the artist who had hand-built and painted the cart. His name is Santi, and he is a self-taught artist and third generation Westwood resident. Coincidentally, I just finished designing an artist statement plaque for a beautiful mural that he painted. The mural, as well as 65 trees that the Trust for Public Land helped plant last year, are located along the Westwood Via Verde, an envisioned neighborhood greenway that will provide multiple benefits to residents including cooling and connectivity.
Soon, the paleta cart will also be on the Via Verde for its public debut. The paleta cart will be used, not for the typical purpose of selling ice cream en un vecindario, but instead to provide real-time information on local air quality in a culturally attractive, engaging way. The cart will include a small box with an air quality sensor, which Santi will also paint, as well as a digital dashboard showing current air quality readings. I’m also in the process of designing infographics that will go on the cart to communicate the significance of the data, the effects of air quality on human health, and the best ways for residents to protect themselves from pollution and improve neighborhood air quality.
Overall, this is a project that the Trust for Public Land hopes will help address issues with equity in air quality. Marginalized communities not only bear the brunt of pollution, but are also more likely to have low tree canopy cover. This makes them prone to increased heat and smog formation. So, TPL is working with community groups and local artists not only to increase canopy cover with the Via Verde, but also to improve air quality directly through community action and awareness.
Needless to say, I’m excited to get to work on this project before I wrap up my internship in Denver for the summer. When I think about all of the different efforts I've been part of here, I’ve consistently seen that meaningful place-based work takes strong collaboration. Whether it was a coordinated meeting for regional conservation efforts, or a neighborhood block party with free food, face-painting, and feedback on Panorama Park, it took some incredible grassroots organizations working together to pull it all off. I'm extremely grateful to have spent the summer learning from them.
I also feel glad that I’ve been able to contribute by using a variety of different skills and learning some new ones along the way. So far, I’ve made spreadsheets, analyzed survey results, written reports, and designed image boards and infographics. The experience has made me feel more confident about the practicality of the “interdisciplinary skill set” I’ve gained with Earth Systems, as it can be difficult to understand what this means without seeing some of the work that needs to be done. While I’m not sure exactly what will come next, I hope to get the chance to contribute to this kind of place-based, environmental justice work again in the future.
Read more at the Out West Student Blog »