Allegheny College Students Propose Public Art in Meadville To Highlight French Creek
Students in a fall 2022 environmental science and sustainability (ESS) junior seminar at Allegheny College have developed proposals for educational art — including benches, murals, and sculptures around Meadville — to showcase French Creek and its importance to the region.
Building on an idea suggested and researched by Allegheny Director of Sustainability Kelly Boulton ’02, the students’ projects seek to strengthen the inherent connection between Meadville and French Creek. In early 2022, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources named French Creek the River Of The Year. The designation has helped bring renewed attention to the creek’s significance as an ecological and recreational resource.
Beatrice Foley ’24, an ESS major with a history minor, says that many students in the class weren’t very familiar with the French Creek watershed prior to the project. The seminar gave students a wonderful opportunity to learn more about many aspects of it, she says.
In fact, the course was designed to challenge students to consider the broader influence their projects could have on accessible education, the environment, and economic development. The students benefited from the perspective and expertise of not only the class’ instructor, Eric Pallant – the Christine Scott Nelson ’73 Endowed Professor in Environmental Science & Sustainability – but also Associate Director of Career Exploration Jim Fitch.
“Something I took away from the project was just how interconnected the community and environment have the potential to be; I hope it can happen,” says Allison Riley ’24, a double major in ESS and global health studies.
The proposals involved an in-depth analysis of existing public art and French Creek itself. Students also compared different building materials to determine the most sustainable and cost-effective option for their projects.
Students also thought about the long-term impact of their proposals and sought input or considered the following stakeholders:
- City of Meadville
- Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau
- Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
- French Creek Valley Conservancy
- Local businesses
- Meadville Public Library
- Meadville Market House
In addition, the proposals noted opportunities for accompanying media to engage visitors further after they make a stop at any public art site. The students explored QR codes, stickers, maps, pamphlets, websites, and other promotional avenues.
Ultimately, the projects will be submitted to Allegheny’s Watershed Conservation Research Center for consideration and funding.
To complement Pallant’s focus on environmental science, Fitch encouraged students to reflect on how their tangible experiences in the course can help them stand out in their career searches. The seminar allowed students to develop project management, communication, and problem-solving skills, Fitch says.
“Students completed real-world projects that are presented, in this case, to an organization with potential funding that ties in the skills they’re learning in the classroom — and that are desired by an employer,” he notes.