Common Home Arts Showcase

Fatigue, courage, futility, hope and perseverance: the Earth Commons and its signature Common Home magazine welcome the Georgetown community to express their feelings about our changing world and its inhabitants through the Common Home Arts Showcase.

2024 Theme: Life on Earth—Wildlife, People & Landscapes

The 2024 theme for the Common Home Arts Showcase was “Life on Earth,” inviting photographers to depict the beauty of wildlife, celebrate diverse cultures, and to express their views on the environment and sustainability through original, compelling photography in three categories: Wildlife, People and Landscapes.


A bright, dramatically-colored green and blue hummingbird perched on a branch with tropical plants in the background

“Colibrí Perchado” by Sergio Rodriguez Cifuentes

“I took this photo one day while walking in my house’s backyard in Bogotá, Colombia. Seeing birds in my backyard became the gateway for a deeper interest in photographing the world around me. Pictured is a Sparkling Violetear.”

A dolphin holding a sponge surfaces in slick blue water

“Showoff!” by Meredith MacQueeney

In Shark Bay, Western Australia, a dolphin named Whopper ascends with a very special lump around her beak—a sponge tool. “Spongers” choose a round, basket-shaped sponge from the seafloor and wear it like a glove while they ferret out bottom-dwelling fish. Wearing the sponge likely protects the skin from abrasion and spiny fish. Sponging is a highly specialized foraging tactic utilized by only a small group of dolphins in Shark Bay. This tactic develops much later than other foraging tactics and sponging skills must be honed over decades. Mothers pass down the tradition to their calves. Interestingly, all daughters will learn the technique from their mothers but only about half of sons become spongers. The mother-calf bond is fundamental to all dolphin and whales societies, where mothers hold ecological knowledge and maintain their unique cultures. Whopper loves to approach our research vessel and “bow-ride” the pressure wave we generate. She frequently brings her sponges along with her, giving us a peek into her rapidly changing world. Human and animal cultures worldwide are threatened by climate change; but for now, Whopper spends her days swimming gracefully through the cerulean blue and showing off her carefully selected sponges.


Amidst the hustle and bustle of a crowd, volunteers meticulously sweep the vast marble terrace with large round brooms against a backdrop golden pagodas

“Merit” by Yoon Yati Oo

As Myanmar’s most sacred Buddhist site, the Shwedagon Pagoda garners hundreds of visitors daily, both local and foreign. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the crowd, a serene spectacle unfolds each evening as a dedicated group of volunteers meticulously sweep the vast marble terrace. Their synchronized efforts symbolize not just cleanliness, but a meritorious devotion to the preservation of the pagoda’s sanctity.

Protestors with their backs turned to us. In the foreground, a person wears a dark blue hoodie that features the headshot of Bisan Owda

“Bisan Owda” by Samraa Smadi

Bisan epitomizes the essence of resilience amid adversity, serving as a beacon of hope in times of darkness. While addressing environmental crises is crucial, we must prioritize the plight of individuals, particularly the most vulnerable, who bear the brunt of human-caused suffering. Environmental advocacy must encompass a deep love and empathy for humanity. Let us remember that our fight for justice extends to all beings, including people, children, and those burdened by hardship. True activism requires us to listen to the voices of those in need and stand in solidarity with them.


A pink, purple, and yellow sunrise over purple-tinted, snowy mountain peaks

“Sunrise on Everest” by Katie Meyer

“The world was silent atop Kala Patthar, Nepal – only my breathing kept me company. Each arduous step was followed by an equally arduous breath in the oxygen-deprived air. As I paused to grab my water bottle, I momentarily diverted my gaze from the path and gasped at the view. There, in front of me, was sunrise over Mount Everest. The highest place on Earth was illuminated in purples and yellows, emerging from darkness, signaling to the world that it was dawn. I found myself humbled by the the silent fortitude of the Himalayas, awed at the power and beauty she possessed.”

A cloud of volcano smoke with gray volcanic rocks in the foreground and a dramatically teal ocean bay in the background

“Ijen Volcano, Indonesia” by Ksenia Dubova

This photograph shows the rugged terrain of Mount Ijen, an active volcano located in East Java, Indonesia. It is renowned for its visually striking blue fire, a result of sulfuric gases igniting as they escape into the atmosphere. The main feature is the large acidic crater lake that possesses a surreal turquoise hue, contrasting sharply with the surrounding barren landscape. In this otherworldly setting, Indonesian workers engage in sulfur mining, enduring harsh conditions to extract the valuable mineral.

“I saw this terrain after the exhausting night hiking and the image stuck with me forever. The raw beauty of this scene is a testament to Earth’s dynamic forces at work.”

2023 Showcase: People, Water, Land

The Common Home showcase called upon photographers to express their views on the environment and sustainability through original, compelling photography that carries a striking message and sparks discussion. For the second year of our showcase, the theme was, “People, Water, Land.

People Category

“A Dawn Diversion,” by Brian Griffiths

“A Dawn Diversion,” by Brian Griffiths won first place in the “People” category. The photograph depicts a girl in a canoe, creating a donut-shaped wake as she paddles in circles. “I was sitting in my hammock watching the sun rise over the river when I heard a screeching laugh of delight from behind me,” writes the photographer. “I turned around and saw my neighbor sitting on the edge of her canoe, paddling in circles as fast as she could… I laughed and ran outside with my camera, and she paddled over and acquiesced to my request for a portrait. The soft glow of dawn beautifully lit this moment of peace and fun.” The photograph serves as a reminder that our land and water must be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

“Respite” by Sadie Marsman.

The second winning photograph for the People category is titled “Respite,” and was submitted by Sadie Marsman. The photograph captures a group of women seeking refuge from the scorching heat of Madrid. “The heat in Madrid was quite high this day—nearly 40 degrees Celsius,” writes Marsman. “This group of women found respite at a reflecting pool, enjoying each others’ company and cooling off with the water.”

Water Category

“Humpback Whales” by John Matuszewski

“Humpback Whales” by John Matuszewski depicts a group of Humpback whales engaged in a coordinated feeding technique known as “bubble-net feeding.” In the photograph, the whales can be seen surfacing together with their mouths open, creating a ring of bubbles around a school of fish. The bubbles serve to herd the fish into a concentrated area, making it easier for the whales to feed. The image perfectly captures the awe-inspiring moment and serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving the delicate balance of our ocean ecosystems.

“The Ecosystem Home” by Katherin Vargas Henao

Katherin Vargas Henao’s photograph depicts a sustainable house design situated on mirror-clear waters reflecting the sky over the Colombian Amazon. According to Vargas Hanao, the house design allows for sustainable living while creating fewer negative environmental impacts. “This house does not require land for construction, which can help preserve natural ecosystems and prevent deforestation and habitat loss,” writes the photograher.

Land Category

“Woman Picking up Yak Excrement” by Zhenghao Wang

Top honors in the “Land” category go to Zhenghao Wang for “Woman Picking up Yak Excrement.” The photographer writes that modern civilization changes the lives of the locals in Tibet, but they still maintain some traditions. “The woman in the picture is picking yak excrement, which can be used to lit fire. The fresh poop stinks, but after being exposed to strong sunlight for a long time, poop will dry out with no smell at all. Furthermore, a good piece of poop can be lit for a long time. Yaks are not kept on farms but live freely in nature, and that is why locals need to walk everywhere to pick up excrement.”

Jean-Paul Nguyen’s photo, “Boats of Ha Long Bay”

Jean-Paul Nguyen’s photo, “Boats of Ha Long Bay,” earned second place in the “Land” category. He writes, “Despite Vietnam’s fast development, the locals of the inner areas of the country continue to rely on fishing and farming as ecotourism grows. I wanted to characterize their lifestyle while putting an emphasis on the great nature around.”

The “Land, Water, People” theme of the contest encouraged photographers to approach the themes in their own unique ways, and the winning photographs did just that. The photographs not only display the beauty of our environment but also highlight the challenges we face in creating a sustainable future.

2022 Showcase Winners

Read about the Common Home Arts Showcase and other Earth Commons art initiatives in “3 Ways Hoyas Are Celebrating Earth Day Through the Arts”

Read on

2022’s inaugural theme, in conjunction with the institute’s collaborative “Voices on the Environment” series, was “Intergenerational Justice.” Top submissions link the theme of intergenerational justice with the environment through highly original, compelling artwork that conveys a strong message and sparks discussion about the environment and our relationship to it.

Intergenerational justice,” focuses on the duties that present generations have towards future ones. Climate change raises particularly pressing issues, such as which risks those living today are allowed to impose on future generations and how available natural resources can be used without threatening the sustainable functioning of the planet’s ecosystems.

The showcase featured 2 categories, the first, “Traditional,” includes graphic/studio arts, such as photographs, paintings, and digital drawings); the second, Freeform, includes written and multimedia arts, such as poems, videos, audio and filmed performances.

Traditional Category

This photo-realistic oil painting pictures water pooled in cupped hands

“Holding On” by Isabella Callagy

1. “Holding On” by Isabella Callagy

Isabella Callagy (C’23), won first place in the “Traditional” category for her painting, “Holding On” (oil on canvas). “This composition ties together art, healing, nature and disaster,” she wrote. “It is up to my generation to make serious changes in their daily lives that impact the environment in the hopes to help future generations have access to water. There is no life without water.”

A colorful abstract painting which appears to feature a large body of water covered in rainbows

“A Black Future” by Dany Garza Mendoza

2. “A Black Future” by Dany Garza Mendoza

Dany Garza Mendoza (MSFS Candidate ’23) earned second place in the “Traditional” category for her painting. “My piece is called ‘A Black Future,’ and it’s inspired on the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in April of 2010,” writes the painter. “The artwork is meant as a warning: a visual representation of the devastating effects that humans have had on our planet, and the potential future if we continue with the status quo.

A sketch of a healthy woman with flower crown on the left and a skull with crown of thorns on the right, set over text collage.

“The Self through Time” by Peris Lopez

3. “The Self through Time” by Peris Lopez

Peris Lopez (SFS ‘23) earned third place in the “Traditional” category with this diptych drawing created on paper soaked in water, dirt creosote, mesquite leaves, and other desert plants.

Freeform Category

A collage of black and white photos of women in the background with a line drawing in gold ink of a woman with three dimensional faux flowers for hair.

“Female Faces of Change” by Victoria Smith (C ’22)

“Female Faces of Change” by Victoria Smith

The first place submission for the “Freeform” category is a collage by Victoria Smith (C’22) that features black and white photograph, pen and ink, and faux flowers. The collage depicts women who have been instrumental in environmental advocacy, including Eunice Newton Foote, a scientist and feminist whose research in the 1800s predicted the impact of greenhouse gases. “Foote was a pioneer in the environmental and women’s rights world,” Smith notes, “so I wanted to connect her to women in the present day as this journey is all connected with many different branches for people to take,” she wrote. “Many more women to come will be part of this intergenerational journey for climate justice.” 

“Planterbed Flowers” by Shelby Gresch

The planterbed flowers are bolder than I
Or perhaps just more naive
Undressing and sharing their color with the pale spring sky Unafraid of another freeze
Unaware the seasons aren’t dependable anymore

I smile down and greet them
Like the old friends that they are
Forsythia, daffodil, hyacinth
The chosen ones I learned from the nursery And planted with my dad
I wonder where they grow wild

The crocus and bluebell and buttercup
Are less ruly
They dance in the yard and play hide and seek In the woods of Rock Creek Park
All delights.

The environmentalist to nihilist pipeline Scares me. Better to not see
The magnolia bravely let her guard down And rejoice until I remember

That urban trees live shorter lives Than their wild relatives
It is risky to root for the underdog

I think gardens are beautiful
But will I feel that we lost if they’re all we have left? Probably.
Perhaps the caged tree is a sacrifice
Perhaps the picture of resilience
Who am I to say

I don’t plan to bring children into such an uncertain world But if I did
I would want to introduce them to the bluebells
So they could learn

To bloom on their own terms.

-Shelby Gresch (C’22)
Second place “Freeform” submission

“The Humans Are Destroying Earth For Us” by Alexandra Bowman

The Humans Are Destroying Earth For Us” by Alexandra Bowman (C’22)

The third place submission in the “Freeform” category is “The Humans Are Destroying Earth For Us” by Alexandra Bowman (C’22), digital media, 2021. The illustration was originally created for Our Daily Planet.


2022 judges included Dr. Peter P. Marra (Director of the Earth Commons), Ian Bourland  (new window)(Assistant Professor, cultural critic and historian of global contemporary art), Michelle Wang (new window) (Associate Professor in Art History with a specialty in Buddhist and silk road art of northwestern China), Marion Cassidy (Common Home magazine student editor), Justine Bowe (Earth Commons Director of Communications and painter), and Caitlin Nasema Cassidy (new window) (ECo Artist-in-Residence).