The fight against climate change brings students from the university and ArtEZ together

Better armament of students against the climate crisis. That is the purpose of RE: PLACE, an honors laboratory where students from Radboud University and the ArtEZ School of the Arts together develop new learning environments with a focus on sustainability.

“We forgot to take the pasta off the fire,” says Hannah Fricke, 26. Fricke and her classmates are going to dinner together. They always do so during the weekly meetings of RE: PLACE, an interdisciplinary honorary laboratory from Radboud University and the ArtEZ Academy of Arts. Art, made by the participants themselves, hangs on the walls of the space they use for their meetings.

An ignorant observer would not have suspected that eating together is an essential part of the training in this honorary laboratory. Like the meditation session, led by ArtEZ student and yoga teacher Karolina Wargin (31), who set the meeting in motion.

‘There is not enough room for creativity in mainstream education’

‘We build and test learning environments and teaching practices with the aim of strengthening students’ determination in the climate crisis,’ says Rozalia Tóth (28), researcher at the Teaching and Learning Center and host of the honors lab. ‘And RE: PLACE deals with educational innovation based on the assumption that we live in the Anthropocene, in a time of climate crisis.’

During the laboratory meetings, there are no teachers and students, only participants. Together, they write a scientific article about the learning environments and teaching practices they have tested.

Creative

That climate crisis was an important reason why Wargin participated in the honors lab. She was born in Poland, but as an 11-year-old she moved to Italy. One and a half years ago, she came to the Netherlands to be a Master Artist Educator at ArtEZ. ‘That’s how I ended up at RE: PLACE. I would be more active and politically involved in climate change by working with other people. ‘

Fricke has lived in Nijmegen since 2017, but is originally from Germany. It was precisely the collaboration that was a challenge for graduate students in biomedicine. ‘Groups are usually not really my thing, but with RE: PLACE it worked out well. I find it very valuable to have a place where you can exchange ideas and express your creativity. ‘

‘Having your own place is important to have the feeling of belonging to a place’

Grace Renfurm (25) is pursuing a master’s degree in philosophy, politics and society and has signed up for the honors lab because regular education does not work for her. ‘There is not enough room for creativity and personal input.’

Gap

That is precisely why Tóth started the honorary laboratory in 2020. ‘We live in a time of climate crisis, war in Europe and the division between Global North and Global South (the richest countries are in the north and the poorest in the south, ed.). It raises many questions, for example about how one as a person can best live in such a world. These questions are not answered in the current academic education. We are trying to do that. “

It took a little getting used to for some participants. “Because of our different backgrounds, it was difficult to find a common goal. At ArtEZ, we are used to working on a project basis, but at the university it happens much less, “says Wargin. Through many discussions, testing of different strategies and considerations about the structure of the meetings, the gap was closed.

Photo: David van Haren

“And we also learn a lot from each other,” adds Renfrum. ‘I think the creativity that people in ArtEZ bring to this project is very valuable.’

The meetings take place in the art studio POPOP, on Stieltjesstraat. A conscious choice has been made about a place separate from the university or the art academy. “This place allows us to create something new, away from the existing structures and ways of thinking,” Tóth says. ‘Furthermore, it is very important to have your own place to feel that you belong and be rooted.’

Brussels

That the group is aligned is shown at the New European Bauhaus Festival in Brussels, which took place from 9 to 12 June. This is a four-day festival with lectures, discussions, performances and exhibitions on the themes of beauty, sustainability and inclusivity. ‘The invitation to the festival confirmed that what we do has an important impact on people,’ says Renfrum.

The organizers asked RE: PLACE to arrange an educational program at the festival. Wargin: ‘We would not just be an information stand. That is why we have also held storytelling workshops. Since then, we have been really confident in what we do. ‘

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