Art Lecturer and Students Explore Sustainable Materials in Costa Rica

SJSU students make lithographs with sustainable materials in Costa Rica.

SJSU students make lithographs with sustainable materials in Costa Rica.

SJSU Lecturer Irene Carvajal teaches printmaking to her students. Lithography is one of the processes she teaches, a medium that has changed very little in the last 300 years.

“For hundreds of years we’ve used the same materials,” Carvajal said. “The joke in the art department is that if Rembrandt were to rise from the dead, everything would shock him except the printmaking department.”

For the last two summers, Carvajal and some of her students traveled to Costa Rica for a summer faculty-led program (FLP) to explore ways to move printmaking into the modern world by moving from petroleum-based, toxic and limited materials, to sustainable materials.

The seed of summer program began several years before when Carvajal visited her home country and visited her alma mater University of Costa Rica. She described the country as having a strong environmental identity and a place where artists and citizens celebrate the natural riches of the country. At the university, she paired up with artists and scientists to explore sustainable materials that might be used in printmaking.

“The only reason we use petroleum is because of its PH and chemical properties,” she said. “But that naturally occurs in fruit and plants, such as lemon juice, pineapple juice and honey. We cook with these things on a daily basis and realized the properties actually match the properties of petroleum. We can etch on stone or metal with these materials.”

Lecturer Irene Carvajal and students visited the rain forest in Costa Rica for inspiration for their art.

Lecturer Irene Carvajal and students visited the rain forest in Costa Rica for inspiration for their art.

Working with the College of Professional and Global Education and with Susie Morris, the director of Study Abroad and Away, Carvajal developed curriculum and an itinerary for a three-week summer program. In 2018, 11 students participated and this summer eight students traveled with her. The SJSU students spent half-days during the week at the University of Costa Rica.

“The world of art is not particularly sustainable most of the time,” said SJSU photography student Nanzi Muro. “At the University of Costa Rica, I learned that it is possible to be a viable artist when creating art. It is a process that takes time and many steps, but it is a matter of wanting to make the change of being a sustainable artist. I have already started the process, and now it is time to continue practicing the steps I learned in my lithography class in Costa Rica.”

The students spent the rest of the day with curators, gallerists, visiting museums as well as government agencies, and nonprofits focused on the environment. Weekends included hikes through national parks or organic farms.

“We traveled to top of the rainforest and swam in hot springs, but we were always looking for some inspiration to take back to class,” said another student, Rene Campos. “Whether it was leaf patterns or volcanic rocks we were always trying to find something from our new surroundings to adapt to our lithographs. “

Students captured views of tropical rain forests in Costa Rica.

Students captured views of tropical rain forests in Costa Rica.

For part of the visit, the students traveled to a remote rain forest region to experience an innovative rural tourism experiment. Three decades ago, 25 families submitted claims to the Costa Rican government for farmland.

“When they arrived, they realized that it was beautiful,” she said. “There was a waterfall and a river, and all sorts of animals and plants. They decided to farm a small portion and keep the rest as a tropical rain forest.”

The Costa Rican group applied for a grant to get money to build eight small, minimal houses on the property. The houses are rented out to scientists, environmentalists or others who want to study the region or learn about the culture in the rural area.

“We were the first group of artists to visit,” Carvajal said. “They taught us about plants, animals and their way of life. We ate from what grew around us, we became part of their family, we taught them how to screen print and make ink out of the native plants.”

Upon returning to SJSU, the students put together an exhibition of the work they created while in Costa Rica. She describes art as the record of what is going on that can be a record of what is going on in the world when it is created.

“As a multicultural person who has lived back and forth in multiple countries, one thing I have thought is that in developed nations we tend to fix problems with money,” she said. “In countries such as Costa Rica there is no money so people have to be creative to come up with solutions to fix their problems. I teach my students the creative process is not just artistic – it is an everyday activity that has to do with looking at life and how to make it better.”

Sister City Swap: Dublin Scholar Studies at SJSU

Aiofe Grady is an exchange student from Dublin who is studying in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering during spring 2019.

Aiofe Grady is an exchange student from Dublin who is studying in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering during spring 2019.

Aoife Grady has a full schedule between the two courses she is taking at San Jose State University, working at an internship at Cypress Semiconductors and working on her thesis as the final requirement to complete her master’s in electronic and computer engineering from Dublin City University (DCU). Grady is this year’s recipient of the Pat McMahon Masters Level Exchange Scholarship that allows a student from Ireland to study at SJSU.

“Obviously there was the draw of Silicon Valley name, and I wanted to experience it,” she said. “I wanted the just to explore and travel as well, so it was a great opportunity to study abroad here, and live and meet other people.”

The scholarship Grady received is the first of its kind to be offered by a US-Irish sister city program and is aimed at deepening existing economic ties between the two cities and nations. The program is named for Patrick Ross McMahon, who was the founding chairman of the San Jose-Dublin Sister City Program. McMahon was born in Dublin and emigrated to the U.S. in 1960, eventually settling in San Jose.

At her internship, Grady is part of the Internet of Things group where she is working on her master’s thesis, which involves speech recognition and audio processing. She is not new to the company, as she completed an internship with Cypress Semiconductor’s Irish location as an undergraduate. She said the Silicon Valley location has more people and has allowed her to learn about the many different roles the company has for employees.

“I have the opportunity to work with intelligent, qualified people,” she said.

In addition to her coursework and internship, Grady has also appreciated the opportunity to live at SJSU’s International House.

“It’s a good setup that I would recommend to any international student,” she said. “It’s really interesting to learn about everyone’s culture and see how we all are adjusting.”

She will continue working at Cypress throughout the summer and hopes to submit her thesis to DCU. Before then, she hopes to take a few more weekend trips with her newfound friends in I-House, with Yosemite high on the list of possibilities.

The College of Professional and Global Education, SJSU and the Sister City Program expanded the scholarship series to allow an SJSU graduate student study in Ireland in 2017.

Megan Moriarty, a master's of fine arts in spatial studies, is studying at Dublin City College for eight months.

Megan Moriarty, a master’s of fine arts in spatial studies, is studying at Dublin City College for eight months.

Megan Moriarty, a sculptor who is earning a master’s of fine arts in spatial studies from SJSU’s College of Humanities and the Arts, is studying at DCU for eight months during which she is also working with the Dublin City Arts Office. She is focusing her attention on public sculpture and new methods of engagement with fine art.

Before embarking on the exchange program, Moriarty shared this in a blog post on her website: “When I am not bouncing around the city, I will be traveling the countryside to explore my ancestral homeland and the history of Irish art. This extraordinary journey is a culminating moment in my master’s research in how spirituality, nature, and technology are woven into contemporary art. I am so thankful to the SJSU Art faculty and fellow students who have supported my aspirations and guided me to this point.”

Marco Henry sitting with group in China having dinner.

San José State Student Bloggers Share World Travels

By Ryan Whitchurch, Public Affairs Assistant

Marco Henry sitting with group in China having dinner.

Marco Henry Negrete and fellow Spartan Ivan Ng sit together in China for a meal with Ivan's local family.

Ever wonder what it would be like to be thrown into an entirely new environment with minimal support to help grasp your surroundings? These San Jose State students decided to find out and are blogging about their experiences as they adapt to a new lifestyle while getting acclimated to their surroundings.

Public relations major Marco Negrete, Jr. is expanding his horizons and taking on the challenge to study abroad one semester in Hong Kong. “My time at SJSU allowed me to become a more cultured person through living and interacting in such a diverse community,” Negrete wrote in his blog. “I was able to turn that new and unfamiliar place into my second home. Although, this is a bit more extreme than going from one part of the state to another, I’m confident that I’ll be fine.”

Aspiring entertainment journalist Keith Bryant is following his dreams and taking a bite out of the Big Apple as an intern for MTV’s True Life. “The theme of the MTV intern program is called ‘Powered By You,’” Bryant said in one recent post. “I truly believe this statement because you make what your internship is. I plan on coming to work with a positive attitude and eagerness to learn. I am absolutely going to take advantage of this opportunity and improve myself for the better.”

You can follow along with Spartans as they blog about their adventures and develop into young professionals that will undoubtedly make their mark on the world.

Here I am-Hong Kong By Marco Henry Negrete, Jr.
Here I am, 7 thousand miles away from home in Hong Kong. Even though I’ve planned this trip for 2 years, I start to question if I’m really prepared. Is planning the same thing as preparing? Has it hit me yet? How do you know when it “hits you?”  Read more from Marco in his blog.

Keith in the Big Apple By Keith Bryant
I am here in New York living out one my dreams this fall semester. I am interning at MTV in their News and Docs department. More specifically, I am working on the show True Life, doing  tasks similar to an entry-level production assistant. Read more from Keith in his blog.

Note: The opinions and and views in these posts are those of the independent student bloggers and not of San Jose State University.