"The Beehive" brings collective art to MSU

Three large banners hung down from the ceiling in a large Snyder Hall classroom. Each banner had a unique series of drawings with the theme of environmental and social justice issues.

The artists of the pieces are known as a group called the Beehive Design Collective and the creations on display were titled “Mesoamérica Resiste” and “The True Cost of Coal.” Each piece had intricate drawings with a fable-like feel and consisted of only plant and animal characters.

During tours, the Beehive listens and shares stories which inspires their art. The decision to be called the Beehive Design Collective came from the idea that the Bees are “cross-pollinating the grassroots” as they travel through towns and collect new stories.

In 2013, the Beehive visited Lansing during a tour where their newest work, “Mesoamérica Resiste,” was displayed.

This year, the Beehive was brought back by the MSU Student Housing Cooperative, MSU Greenpeace, EFFS Club, RCAH Council and MSU Students United.

During this year’s tour, the Bees focused on the topic of extreme resource extraction.

This was reflected through the art pieces. “Mesoamérica Resiste” is a piece that portrays exploitation of Central America and “The True Cost of Coal” shows how fossil fuel extraction in Appalachia affects workers and their jobs.

James Madison sophomore Nicholas Bade-Dodge said it’s important for the youth to be educated on environmental issues.

“I think because art is very accessible, it’s not something that requires you to sit in a lecture for or study to learn,” Bade-Dodge said.

He said he liked looking at one corner of a piece and seeing how the art unravels.

The Bees, as the specific group of artists is known, work together as volunteers and their creations are not attributed to just one artist.

Graphics created by the Bees are anti-copyright images printed in black and white to make reproduction easier.

Reproduction is encouraged so others can educate people on the different issues the specific pieces focus on.

Willow Cordes-Eklund, who is one of the Bees, said the art is a great exposure of a new style of education.

“I think it’s (the art) a great example of how to use art as activism,” Cordes-Eklund said. “Right now, especially for students in the collegiate system, they are exposed to one environment of learning and I think that in part with the way that we make and distribute and use as an education tool—these posters—it’s a different environment of education.”

Environmental Science and Management senior Natalie Davenport said living in East Lansing can separate people from mining and burning processes.

She said viewing the art can give people a new perspective.

“It’s a good chance for us to understand different points of view outside academic textbooks because (the art pieces) are direct stories that affect communities,” Davenport said.

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