Climate justice action murals will soon line the Northeastern tunnels 

Climate justice mural
Artist Nicole Lee artwork titled “Leaf Long Learning.” Courtesy image

Sprouting from the roof of a Northeastern University building are flowers representing the different locations of the school’s campuses across the globe. Roots represent how all of the students and former students of the university are interconnected. 

Titled “Leaf Long Learning,” the artwork by Nicole Lee, who is majoring in environmental studies, is one of the five winners of the Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub competition. 

“I see Northeastern as a hub, a flower pot of environmental justice,” says Lee. The roots showcase how students remained connected following graduation and go out to “do good for the world wherever we go.”

5 student winners of Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub competition posing in front of their murals outside
From left to right, artists, Yobella Cook, Matty Tanios, Aleyana Momplaisir, Rylan Gonzalez, Aishling Kelly and Nicole Lee. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

The five winners will soon have their murals hung, visualizing climate justice action inside Northeastern’s tunnel system to inspire those passing by to make an impact. 

The Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub and the Student Sustainability Committee held the competition this past semester to increase engagement and awareness of climate justice and sustainability

The committee, which comprises about 15 students, chose the five winners out of 20 submissions. Each team won a cash prize of $500. 

The goal is to have more competitions like this in the future, says Leah Bamberger, the executive director of Northeastern’s Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub. 

“It is a great demonstration that we are all still artists,” says Bamberger. The artwork allows climate justice messages to come across creatively, she added. Plus, “connecting people with the work is very effective.” 

One mural titled “Earthbound” showcases a woman on a bicycle, wiping away the old forms of polluting transportation like cars to new, cleaner versions like the Green Line. 

The artist, Matty Tanios, decided to do the competition when he saw a post for it on Instagram. So he turned out his artwork when he was recuperating from COVID-19—giving him five days to work on it. 

One mural called “Cultivating Community” by two students, Aishling Kelly and Rylan Gonzalez, represents Northeastern’s collaborations with the nearby communities, including community members planting “seeds of change” in a cultivating garden of support and allyship. 

Another mural by Northeastern student Aleyana Momplaisir offers an interpretation of a post-climate crisis world, centering on the Black communities in the U.S. that are disproportionately more vulnerable to floods, air pollution and toxic chemicals in their personal care products. 

Due to the climate crisis, Momplaisir explained there is a need for more opportunities for people to experience a carefree lifestyle. Therefore, the mural showcases women of color doing mundane tasks like putting on makeup or a child chasing after butterflies.  

“My prompt was an ideal scenario if everything works out,” says Momplaisir. “It was like creating a vision board.”

Art has been part of Northeastern student Yobella Cook’s life for nearly a decade. So when she saw the competition, she jumped on the opportunity to combine her love of art with sustainability. 

“I was inspired by how the community can drive sustainability,” says Cook. Her piece, she says, showcases “people working together to create a sustainable future.”

Through the lens of a comic book strip, different panels showcase the intersection of culture and food, community members playing and interacting in a sustainable neighborhood, and researchers in a lab. 

Cook is a health science major, but she says art remains a part of her life. 

“It doesn’t matter where you are from or your current experience. You can produce art,” says Cook. 

Beth Treffeisen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at Follow her on Twitter @beth_treffeisen.