Undergraduate Feature: A Field Guide to Taking the Alternative Route

The FEELed lab is beginning a blog series highlighting undergraduate work focused on intersectional and inclusive environmental humanities questions. The first undergraduate work we are featuring is Tatiana Lopez’s A Field Guide to Taking the Alternative Route. Tatiana made four posters that call attention to physically inaccessible parts of Kelowna. She is a fourth-year psychology major from Southern California. She does not describe herself as an artist; rather, she likes being creative! She engages in many creative mediums in her free time, like digital art, drawing, and painting. She explained that her psychology degree does not give her a ton of room to do artistic projects but jumps at the chance when there is an opportunity!

Digital art that features a person in a wheelchair at the bottom of a large hill. There are footprints highlighted up the hill. It is night and there are streetlights illuminating the hill.
Digital art featuring a snowy bus stop. The sun is setting in the background. In the top left corner there are clippings of a person in a wheelchair stuck in the snow and a person crying.
Digital art featuring a person in a wheelchair trying to reach a cross walk but is stopped by a large stream of water. There is a bright orange sun in the background.
Digital art featuring the side of a building, a parking lot, and stairs. There are clippings on the lower part of the image. One has a person walking up the stairs and the other shows a person in a wheelchair stuck at the top of the steps.

Tatiana made these posters for part of an assignment for Astrida Neimanis’s undergraduate ecofeminism class. This project allowed Tatiana to portray and analyze an environmental justice issue creatively. She explained, “lack of accessibility and weathering were two topics that I took particular interest in throughout the course, and I felt that a creative piece was the best way to emphasize the issues in Kelowna regarding those two topics.” 

Tatiana mentioned that illustrator Maria Medem’s style inspired these posters. You can see the reflections of Medem’s work in relationship with Tatiana’s own style and the clear portrayals of Kelowna landscapes. Tatiana developed criteria to determine the accessibility of different spaces around Kelowna. As she walked around Kelowna, she took notice of the places that she felt were particularly inaccessible to replicate in her posters. This project asked that she think differently about the spaces she interacted with often as an able-bodied person. Tatiana noted that many spaces seem accessible in theory, but they do not consider how real-life variables, like the weather, drastically change this accessibility.

She explained that she “tried to capture the feelings that those instances and locations would evoke, as described by many disabled authors and activists.” In these posters, Tatiana attempts to make visible some of the barriers able-bodied people may not even notice. Of course, in Kelowna like everywhere else, disabled people (as well as people who push strollers, or shopping carts, or use other devices with wheels) devise many ingenious strategies to ‘weather’ the world, and they are the source of lots of knowledge about how to live more inclusively in built environments. Tatiana explained that growing up in Southern California with often mild and favourable weather now makes her particularly sensitive to how weather can dramatically change how people move through the world. 

After viewing the posters, Tatiana hopes that people take more time to consider how spaces affect us differently and learn from one another on how to make spaces more accessible. She is optimistic that “trying to understand other people’s situations in life and having a sense of empathy and compassion is what will help lead to positive change!” 

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