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Beehive Design Collective part of Sustainability Week

  • Detail from 'The True Cost of Coal'
  • Detail from 'The True Cost of Coal'

Posted on October 18, 2011

The efforts of an interesting assortment of worker bees will bring an educational story-telling and graphic art project to Grand Valley State University’s Campus Sustainability Week.

The Beehive Design Collective will present “The True Cost of Coal,” Thursday, October 20, at 7 p.m. in the Padnos Student Art Gallery, located in the Alexander Calder Fine Arts Center, on Grand Valley’s Allendale Campus. The event is open to the public with a donation suggested for admission.

The large mural coming to Grand Valley addresses the extreme coal extraction process and mountaintop removal in Appalachia, as a lens through which to understand the historical and contemporary story of energy resource extraction and bring to light the ensuing climate chaos facing the world today. The event was organized by Brett Colley, an associate professor of art at Grand Valley with a current research focus on the implementation of art in eco-justice education and activism.

“Though situated in a fairly specific subculture, somewhere in the midst of education, activism and art, the Bee’s work has reached a surprisingly broad audience,” said Colley.

Colley describes the Beehive process as three-fold. First a group journalists travel to a site of activist interest, such as Appalachia, or Guatemala, and lives with the indigenous population to glean a multi-faceted narrative concerning their community’s problems. Next, they return to their ”hive” or headquarters in rural Maine, where their text is “synthesized” with images in collaboration with a cohort of illustrators/artist-Bees.

“Once the artwork is complete, another group of Bee storytellers, or educators, take large-scale graphic reproductions on the road, traveling from school to school, teaching social justice via these unique graphic campaigns,” he said. “I’ve seen the Bees on four occasions and they are always great.”

Since their start in 2000, the Beehive has distributed more than 75,000 posters as part of an innovative and story-based education strategy that conveys far-reaching community issues with interactive, image-based lectures and graphic workshops.

Learn more about the group at

Campus Sustainability Week runs October 14-23. Participants are invited to share their celebrations and challenges during the week on Facebook and Twitter with the hash tag #GVCSW11. A full schedule of events is available at

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