A bicycle painted and decorated by Jason Sauer.
A bike designed by Jason Sauer. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As the world faces a climate crisis, the need for sustainable and environmentally-conscious living is becoming increasingly clear. To raise awareness about this issue, multiple Pittsburgh organizations are uniting to create an event highlighting the benefits of an eco-friendly future.

Geek creatives and green innovators will gather at the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District on Thursday, May 11, from 5 to 9 p.m. for Solarpunk Future, an interactive art show/job fair. 

The Solarpunk movement offers an alternative to the bleak cyberpunk vision of the future. The event promotes a community-led, sustainable future as a hopeful goal to strive toward – in contrast to the hopeless climate messages that circulate on social media and in the news.

There will be an immersive exhibition featuring green art and a raffle supporting the rebuilding of New Sun Rising in Millvale due to a fire in January. Scott Wolovich, executive director of New Sun Rising, believes that Solarpunk illustrates indigenous values of authenticity, self-reliance and environmental harmony.

“Art has the power to bring diverse groups of people together to have both individual and shared experiences,” says Wolovich. “We need more people to not only know about environmental issues — but we need them to become inspired and actively engaged in building solutions. Creative people and processes will be critical to help us get there.”

Camo Nesbit. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The event features a keynote by Pittsburgh-based Ecotone Renewables, Carnegie Mellon University startup that produces carbon-negative liquid fertilizer from food waste; a singing plant performance by Passport Academy students; interactive sculptures by the We All Eat Initiative; painted bike displays by Jason Sauer and Camo Nesbit; an art installation by D.S Kinsel of BOOM Concepts; Hot Wheels demonstrations with Pittsburgh Glass Center; and EcoFuture sculpture by Cory Bonnet.

Attendees can also explore employment opportunities and resources provided by organizations such as Landforce, Catalyst Connection, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Solar United Neighbors, Pittsburgh Regional Transit, Tech25, BRITE Energy Innovators, and Green Mountain Energy. 

Christine Bethea, an art consultant for the Solarpunk Future event, says incorporating discarded objects into new purposes is an effective way to encourage sustainability and prompt individuals to reconsider what they discard.

Bethea points to artists like Jason Sauer, who is painting bikes for the event and raffling them off to visitors. 

“I think all salvage artists look at their work as a way to keep objects out of landfills by making them approachable and beautiful,” says Bethea. “I’m always amazed at the wonderful things that can be created from ‘one man’s junk.’ I think of it as saving the planet one piece of artwork at a time.”

Jason Phox is a journalist in the Pittsburgh area sharing important information with the people of the Steel City. He enjoys writing, photography, and mostly comic books.