Commons Meeting & Art Space

Commons meeting and art spaceThe Institute on the Environment houses a unique space that serves as an area where the IonE community can gather for meetings or events as well as a location to display artistic works that celebrate the environment and sustainability. IonE’s vision for the Commons: Meeting & Art Space is to highlight the intersection of science and the arts by hosting exhibits that break down barriers between the two. We hope the space will continue to bring different communities at the University together and support IonE’s mission to foster interdisciplinary relationships.

Located in R350 Learning & Environmental Sciences, the Commons: Meeting & Art Space is open Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Parking is available behind the building in the Gortner Avenue Ramp.

Current Exhibit

earth art

earth_artThis series of paintings by Marjorie Schalles was inspired by satellite photographs from the U.S. Geological Survey/Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS). The images captured by NASA photographers, developed for their aesthetic beauty rather than for scientific value, resonated with her artistic vision, bringing fresh and inspiring glimpses of our planet’s complex surface. Read more about earth art

All are invited to the reception for earth art, April 1 4:30-6 p.m. in the Commons Meeting & Art Space.


The exhibit may be temporarily unavailable if IonE is hosting a private meeting or event. We encourage you to review the calendar, which lists private reservations, before dropping by.

Recent Exhibits


 Micro Greens“3434” is an exhibition of four prize winning artworks created in spring of 2014 by student groups from the Art History course “Art and the Environment” (ArtH3434). Students from different backgrounds and with a wide range of undergraduate majors worked together to research environmental problems and the history of earth and environmental art. Emulating the many collaborative environmental art groups working throughout the world today (groups that include scientists of various kinds, designers, architects, visual artists and activists), they produced or proposed works of art that respond to diverse environmental challenges. The works in the exhibit represent a range of artistic approaches and media including printmaking, architecture, sculpture, performance and culture jamming. This exhibition was made possible by a mini grant from the Institute on the Environment.

Estar in el Prairie

Estar en el PrairieEstar in el Prairie is a community-created photography project that documents the changing faces of rural western Minnesota. Due to growing labor-intensive agricultural operations, rural population decline is being offset by a flourishing immigrant population, composed mainly of Latinos. This project documents the faces, stories and humanity of a new rural narrative.

Polar Environments

Polar Geospatial CenterThe Polar Geospatial Center is a research organization funded by the National Science Foundation to provide support for science and operations in the polar regions. We present a collection of photographs, maps, and satellite images from our work in the most beautiful and remote places on Earth: Antarctica and the arctic. See more of our work.


Examples from I AM WATER I AM WATER is an ongoing, collaborative, public art project. Rooted in Anishinaabe beliefs about our direct relationship with nature, the primary goal of this work is simple: to erase the notion that we, as humans, are somehow separate from the natural world we inhabit. Re-establishing this primal connection is central to establishing more efficacious paths toward environmental activism. The current public work, part of which is on view in the Commons Gallery, is I AM WATER’s Wave of Change.

Tales of Environmental Turbulence:
The Common Trails of Art & Science

 Alison BromanderBetween broad visions of land and sky and careful observation of small details lies the intersection of art and science. In this exhibition, we explore the inevitable intersection of disciplines to encourage deeper expression of challenging and difficult concepts that affect us individually and globally at this time of cultural paradigm twists. Art from a variety of traditions will be featured – traditional, avant-garde, mixed-media, media art, sculpture, painting, drawing and performance – demonstrating the intersection between art and science. This exhibition is a culminating project of Conversation-E: Science + Art in Dialogue and Service to Sustainability supported by the Institute on the Environment in collaboration with GATE (Greening and Art Together Evolving).

Conexiones: Área de Conservación GUANACASTE
Damond Kyllo & Annie Rosenthal

 Damond Kyllo & Annie RosenthalArt offers a path to make science accessible to broader audiences. Generous support from IonE allowed Annie Rosenthal and Damond Kyllo to visit IonE resident fellow Jennifer Powers’ field sites in the tropical dry forests of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, in June, 2011. Annie, now a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas, specializes in botanical illustration. Her detailed drawings on display in the IonE Commons will be part of an informal field guide, Notas del Campo, to the plants of the Área de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG). Damond has a Ph.D. in biology and uses his skills as a scientist and an illustrator to tell ecological tales to children. Damond has completed a Spanish language illustrated story guide, Conexiones, which will reach thousands of Costa Rican schoolchildren through the Biological Education Program of the ACG. Together, this original artwork illustrates the diversity, complexity and beauty of the tropical dry forest and interconnected ecosystems, and helps tell the stories of these unique and endangered places.

Downstream/Upstream: A Journey Through the Urban Water Cycle
Jonee Kulman Brigham

 Water treatment facility“Downstream/Upstream: A Journey Through the Urban Water Cycle” documents a two-week journey that 39 children ages 4–6 took to explore the infrastructure of water. On exhibit are photographs, artists’ books, maps and diagrams that illustrate the children’s exploration of the urban water cycle starting from their classroom sink to the Mississippi River — upstream and downstream. Artist Jonee Kulman Brigham led the structured and creative collaborative project that allowed children to explore cultural narratives and issues of sustainability related to the flow of water through their daily lives. “Downstream/Upstream” illustrated and incubated an art/environmental education curriculum framework called “Systems Journey,” which was supported in part by an Institute on the Environment Mini Grant. Brigham is an architect and research fellow at the Center for Sustainable Building Research in the College of Design and an artist at Full Spring Studio. See more information on “Downstream/Upstream.”

Ecomusicology Listening Room
Mark Pedelty

 Listening and viewing a photoThe Ecomusicology Listening Room, a collection of soundscapes designed to inspire reflection, questions and new ideas concerning the relationship between music, image and place, is a communication tool for building the field of ecomusicology in a creative, interdisciplinary and collaborative fashion. The website (, exhibit and live sessions encourage participants to consider the place of sound in sustainability, biodiversity, environmental health and environmental justice. ELR1 (2012) matched still images to sound compositions to evoke ecomusicological questions and stoke discussion among musicians, artists, musicologists, ethnomusicologists, popular music studies scholars, environmentalists and environmental scientists. ELR1 debuted at the American Musicological Society (AMS) and Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) meetings in New Orleans in 2012, then traveled to IonE in 2013. The next stage, ELR2 (2013), will combine music with video and emphasize popular music and environmental advocacy, action and policy themes. It will be exhibited at the AMS meeting in Pittsburgh and the SEM meeting in Indianapolis in November 2013.


The Commons: Meeting & Art Space hosted its first exhibit in December 2012. The IonE community praised the artistic addition to the collaborative meeting area, and the administrative department decided to explore having the art space as a permanent fixture. Looking forward, we hope to host three exhibits each year that highlight a variety of artists affiliated with IonE, the University of Minnesota or the Twin Cities.


Is the Commons: Meeting & Art Space open to the public?

The Commons primarily serves as a collaborative meeting area for the IonE community. Members of the general public are welcome to visit the art space during times when the Commons is not reserved for IonE meetings or events. We encourage you to review the Commons calendar (above), which lists private reservations, before dropping by.

I am interested in displaying my work. What do I need to know?

  • Preparation: The Commons: Meeting & Art Space functions as a self-sustaining entity. In order for your exhibit to be considered, your artwork needs to be ready to display. We cannot offer any type of financial assistance outside of providing basic equipment for installation.
  • Installation: The artist is responsible for the entire installation of the exhibit. The installation must occur while an IonE representative is present (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday).
  • Public space: The Commons is not monitored and IonE has no control over who visits, even during our normal office hours. We do not insure any of the artwork we host; all artists are required to sign a release of liability.
  • Types of art: IonE is interested in hosting a wide variety of artists in the Twin Cities, but we are especially interested in highlighting those directly connected to IonE or University of Minnesota community. We are also open to exhibits that feature work not typically thought of under the artwork umbrella, such as photographs from a research site, infographic material and natural objects.
  • Application: Please fill out the artist request for consideration.

What space is available to exhibit art at the Commons Meeting & Art Space?

Please review the Commons: Meeting & Art Space floor plan (PDF). If your work is selected for display, it may also be helpful to view the space in person as there are several pieces of larger furniture that are movable but not included in the floor plan.

How do I submit a request for consideration?

Please fill out the artist request for consideration. Allow 5–7 business days for a response. Exhibits are booked based upon upcoming availability of the space.

Who do I contact if I still have questions about the Commons: Meeting & Art Space?

Please contact Kimberly Long, the Events and Special Projects Coordinator or 612-626-9553.

The opinions expressed in these exhibits are those of the artists and not necessarily of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.