Course Overview

New for 2022! Art and the Environment is an immersive class that enables students to explore their relationship to the built and natural environment as they delve into the creation of art and meeting with the leading ecological artists.

Based on Governors Island, with its emphasis on public works that explore climate crisis and public initiatives based on urban agriculture, classes and studios will take place in one of the historic homes while exploring New York City as subject and motivation for the creation of work.

This course is part of Summer College Studio Art Academy, an enrichment and community-building program offered through Syracuse University’s School of Art, part of the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). 

Students enrolled in this course, as well as Art and ActivismContemporary Technologies in SculptureGraphic Novel and Visual StorytellingPainting Studio and Making Comics will all meet virtually on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-1:30 p.m. to take part in group discussions, artist lectures, live virtual field trips, and Open Studio hours.

All students who successfully complete the course will receive a Certificate of Completion and have the opportunity to request a Syracuse University noncredit transcript.

Course Objectives

  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of historical and contemporary artworks that engage the environment
  • Come to a deeper understanding of relationship to the natural and the built environment through traditional and experimental research
  • Increase sensitivity as to the means by which we engage the environment
  • Empower students act by creating artworks that reveal individual perspectives on the climate crisis and environmental degradation
  • Participate in a public exhibition at Syracuse University’s Governors Island Nolan Park House

“Pre-College truly opened my eyes to my passions with great role models and friends I met along the way. I learned unique ways to go about what I love and I didn’t want it to end!”

— Chloe F., Summer College Student, 2021

Course Information

Course Prefix and Number: TBD

Format: On Location: Governors Island (commuter, only)

Eligibility: Students must be of rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior status – or a 2022 high school graduate. Students must be able to commute to and from Governors Island location for class. 

Credit: Noncredit

Grading: Pass/Fail


  • Commuter, only: $2,500

Program rates are subject to change and will be approved by the board of trustees.  Discounts and scholarships are also available.

Program Information

Summer College – On Location: Experience what college is really like in one of Syracuse University’s homes on the west or east coasts! 

Course Dates and Details

ProgramCourse DatesLocationClass Time (Eastern Time)Credit/NoncreditStatus
Summer College – On Location2-Week Session: Monday, Aug. 1-Friday, Aug. 12, 2022Governors Island, New YorkMTWThF;
9 a.m.-noon,
1-4 p.m.
Students will break for roughly one hour for lunch. Class times subject to change.

Course Requirements


Students should budget for required textbooks and supplies.

Typical Day

Tentative Schedule

9 a.m. – noon: Arrive at Governors Island Nolan Park house by 9am via ferry for class hours. Class will consist of lectures and visits to the urban farm as well as with artists creating Environmental Art on the island.
Noon: Lunch
1-1:30 p.m.: School of Art daily discussion topic (virtual).
1:30-4 p.m.: Open studio hours and at least two museum and gallery visits in New York City per week.

Tuesday and Thursday evening virtual artist lectures offered through the School of Art.

Field Trips

Field trips from Governors Island into New York City will be held twice a week.

End Event

On the last day of class, there will be an exhibition of student work.

Faculty Bios

Sam Van Aken

Sam Van Aken is a contemporary artist who works beyond traditional modes of art making, crossing artistic genres and disciplines to develop new perspectives on such themes as communication, botany, agriculture, climatology, and the ever-increasing impact of technology. Van Aken’s interventions in the natural and public realm are seen as metaphors that serve as the basis of narrative, sites of place making, and in some cases have become the basis of scientific research.
Born in Reading Pennsylvania, Sam Van Aken received his undergraduate education in Art and Communication Theory. Immediately following his studies he lived in Poland and worked with dissident artists under the former communist regime through the auspices of the Andy Warhol Foundation and the United States Information Agency. Van Aken received his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and since this time his work has been exhibited and placed nationally and internationally. He has received numerous honors including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, Association of International Curator’s of Art Award and a Creative Capital Grant. Recently, his work has been presented as part of Nature as part of the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial in New York and at the Cube Design Museum, Netherlands, at the 2020 World Economic Forum, and as part of Seeds of Resistance at the Eli and Edyth Broad Art Museum at Michigan State. Sam Van Aken lives and works in Syracuse New York, where he is currently an Associate Professor as well as the Associate Director in the School of Art at Syracuse University.