Finding Artistic Power at LAGI

Hello Everyone! This was my first week working at the Land Art Generator Initiative [LAGI], and already I have learned so much about urban processes and the teamwork required in making urban spaces healthy and successful. A city is really a living, breathing organism. It is shaped by the inhabitants, growing and changing with the times and through the culture of the area. For some, it is a place where good times can be found through public musuems, parks, restaurants, and entertainment. For others, like those who work at LAGI, it is a place of endless possibility where opportunities to support the livelihood of social justice can be found through creative and inventive means.


LAGI is located in Pittsburgh, PA in an urban town called Lawrenceville. I’ve known about LAGI since last year, and was able to secure a position for this summer. I found LAGI through searching the internet, as I knew that I was interested in both art and urban development–and LAGI offers the best of both.

Upon first receiving this internship, I knew that LAGI worked to aid energy consumption and the beautification of cities (including those in Copenhagen, Dubai, New York, and Pittsburgh) but there was also more to their business that I had missed. A huge part of LAGI’s work is holding competitions where artists, architects, and engineers are encouraged to collaborate on building artistic and functional energy efficient structures. Though these collaborations are for potential projects and winning does not guarantee that the rendered plans will be constructed, these collaborations are creating something very powerful. They encourage creativity and inspire teams to be imaginative when they are not permitted to so otherwise. My supervisor, Elizabeth Monoian, shared that the competitions they hold give participants a creative freedom, for in their normal day-to-day responsibilities they normally are too busy with client obligations to utilize their more unique approaches to architectural design. She stated that the art form she has seen being born, as a result of collaboration between disciplines, is rapidly developing and may change the face of art as we know it.

This type of art practice, comes from the methods of Land Art or Eco-Art. This discipline has a wide range, but it can either use the natural world as a material, or speak about environmental issues through creative expression. At first I thought that all projects of Land Art would be healthy and conducive to the environment, but Elizabeth told me that this was not the case. Land Art can be as equally destructive to the natural world as it can be helpful. That is why when entering LAGI’s competitions, the pieces submitted must be helpful to the environment, and not cut down trees or damage the environment to come to fruition.

I was unaware of this practice of art.   Throughout my artistic education, I learned about aesthetic mediums (paint, pencils, pastels) and the various types of canvases I could use, or the wonders of digital manipulation and graphics. Land Art so speaks to me on a personal level, because it gives art a purpose it has never really been assigned before. It makes art useful in everyday life and current global issues, which is exactly what I’ve been struggling to find in my career. As an interdisplinary major (IGS) with an undeclared minor (I really think its going to be environmental studies now), I really did not have a great idea of where I would end up. All I knew was that I was a social justice advocate who loved the arts since birth.  I wanted to make that a reality in my adult life. Now, happily, I think that that dream will be possible.

During the first two days of my internship, I researched grants that LAGI could apply for, and  looked for current “happenings” of the surrounding communities and possible future reconstructions. I am very happy that next week I will begin to learn the art of grant writing, which will be a useful skill when I start looking for careers post-college.

The last day of my first work week I helped set up an art gallery opening in mid-June. One of the exhibits is LAGI’s work, and there are other land artists featured as well. From abstract pieces to city planning architectural sketches, everything surrounding the gallery was pro-environment and pro-urbanism, and I felt very much at home.






I am very excited to see where this internship will take me as LAGI furthers their creative powers and efforts. I am so happy to just be learning about this relatively unknown art form, and I seem to be finding myself as I reawaken, and respect, the creative artist within me.


–Karrah Beck ’15



3 thoughts on “Finding Artistic Power at LAGI”

  1. Hi Karrah,

    Wow (no pun intended), it sounds like LAGI is an ideal fit for you! I understand that it must have been difficult to grapple with how your interest for art, passion for social justice, and IGS major all connect. But it seems like interning at LAGI has shown you their unique intersection – one that many people are unaware of.

    I find art’s role in preserving the environment really interesting. I had never thought of environmental activism as a means of creative expression before. I bet thinking of ways to better the environment in a more artistic way opens up a whole new avenue of creativity. Do you yourself have any ideas you’d like to eventually enter LAGI’s competition with?

    Good luck with the rest of the summer!
    Zoe Richman

  2. Hello Zoe,

    Thanks for your comment!–environmental activism really does overlap with artistic expression–and I didn’t really notice this pattern until my work experiences. A great example of how botany can become artistic is though the Phipps Conservatory ( in Pittsburgh, PA, where in addition to botanical gardens the conservatory also has glass sculptures to add to the ambiance of the space.
    Great question about what I would possibly enter into a competition! I suppose I’m fascinated by the “opening up” of internal spaces through the use of windows and natural light, so I guess I could see myself mapping out a community center/office building that embraces both the outdoors and human interactions within the space. So, maybe I could put in a roof garden, glassed rooms, and draw away from claustrophobic materials like concrete and linoleum. That would be pretty amazing to create!

    Best of luck with your internship!
    Karrah Beck

  3. Hi Karrah!
    I haven’t really thought about this as a practice of art either! Reading about your organization reminded me slightly of this other organization that I used to work for called Artists for Humanity. The building where this organization is was the first LEED Platinum Certified Green Building in Boston. Its building is very unique with a lot of sustainable features. I used to work in their 3-D design studio making sustainable furniture. Their focus is more on art but it may be a cool place to check out if you are interested. I look forward to reading your other posts and learning more about your internship!
    Alice Luu

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