zitner ’23 presents “the garden festival”

The environmental studies (ENVS) linked major requires a senior capstone project (thesis, essay, performance, etc) on an environmental topic. English and environmental studies major Talia Zitner’s senior capstone project is The Garden Festival, an event that aims to make sustainability more accessible and exciting to the Wesleyan community, through a number of sustainable vendors, featured student organizations, and musical performances curated by The Shed Collective. The event will take place on Friday, April 21 from 3 to 10 pm in the backyard of Russell House. Learn more about Talia, and the event, below!

Hi Talia! Would you give coexist readers some background about yourself, and share why you were inspired to take on this project? 
I came to Wesleyan already knowing that I wanted to be an environmental studies and English double major! This combination felt like a strong point of intersection of my interests. I knew I wanted to do a senior capstone that incorporated my prior experience in festival work. Specifically, I’ve focused on social-impact related events, and done work in operations and advocacy. These experiences inspired me to take on this Earth Month festival for my senior capstone. 

What has the process of organizing this event been like so far? What has your involvement been?
I would consider myself to be a producer of this festival. I’ve worked in collaboration with The Shed Collective, which is a student-led music collective on campus. 

The process has been wild! I’ve been working on this for over a year. I started by putting feelers out across campus, seeing if this was something that would even be possible. I secured a capstone advisor, Brian Stewart, in the physics and environmental studies departments, who has been extremely helpful. 

With any event, it feels a lot like a snowball effect. I started by seeing who would be interested, conceiving what the event would even look like, and reaching out to people working in sustainability, the Physical Plant staff, and the Resource Center.

How did you go about selecting who would be featured in the festival?
I really wanted this to be a very Wesleyan student-focused event, so everyone involved, outside of a couple of bands, are all Wesleyan students. Abbi Abraham ’23 of The Shed Collective has taken on organizing the music side of this particular event and I have been working on selecting the vendors, featured clubs, and taking on other organizational tasks that go into producing an event of this size. The Shed has picked the two outside groups that will be performing, and we are now working on developing the lineup for the student bands that will be playing, including Maganda, High Standards, Noise Baby, Loose Geese, and Lily Gitlitz. Our headliners will be zzzahara from 8 to 9 pm and Billy Woods, from 9 to 10 pm.

We have student vendors who will be selling products they have created, and we are also featuring sustainability groups on campus. For example, WesThrift will be there with a big thrift pop up, which is really exciting. Other groups include Sunrise, the Sustainability Office, Espwesso, The Resource Center, Finn and Lewis Tacos, and Long Lane Farm. We have a great group of people involved!

Do you have any advice for students that are interested in putting on similar events in the future? 
Yes! They should start with the Office of Student Involvement (OSI). They have a number of event-planning resources on their website that will guide you through how to put on an event. I will say that it is a completely different process than putting on a project for a capstone or a thesis, which must be funded through your department. The College of the Environment is very generously helping me with mine. I would recommend using both the OSI and your department advisor to figure out the best possible plan of execution.

There are so many things I wish I knew before, specifically about access to spaces and resources on campus. There are a few hoops to jump through if you are an individual working without a specific club backing you, but what I have learned through this project is that it is completely possible to put up an event like this at Wesleyan. It has been completely worthwhile. 

What are you hoping Wesleyan students will learn and take away from this event?
I really want folks to walk away with a sense of pride and ownership over the Wesleyan campus. In seeing their peers engage with sustainability work, I hope they know that they can also get involved, if they are so interested and motivated. Campus sustainability does not have to be intimidating or overwhelming. It can be as simple as composting your food in Usdan, or bringing recycling to the campus store.

There are just so many ways for students to integrate simple sustainability initiatives into their lives. We don’t have to feel like the entirety of climate change is resting on our shoulders, but we can take action in small accessible ways. There are ways to make sustainability easier and more fun!