Art and Ecology Minor

The Art and Ecology minor supports students who want to reimagine what art and design can do in the world.

In this minor, you’ll develop a broad understanding of pressing ecological issues and their relationship to the social, political, cultural, and economic systems that impact the future of humanity, other species, and our shared planet. You’ll work across disciplines to make work that is socially and ecologically impactful. 

Here in the Pacific Northwest, with the forest, the Gorge, the Pacific Ocean, the mountains so nearby, we are deeply aware of the natural world, its persistence and fragility, and how important the health of the planet is to our own. Never before have ecological issues been more pressing. And here in Portland, a city that is politically progressive, ecologically-minded, and forward-thinking on social issues, we are embedded in a network of likeminded artists, designers, scholars, and organizations with whom students and faculty collaborate and share inspiration. 

The Art and Ecology minor is truly interdisciplinary and includes studio work, art history, literature, social sciences, and science. Students receive guidance and support through frequent individual meetings with faculty. Students also participate in group activities as a way to share their creative practice and integrate their classroom experiences through discussion with faculty and peers. These activities include potluck dinners, exhibitions, guest speakers, guided hikes, and other community pursuits. In this way, the minor supports the expansion of a creative research based practice, honing the skills and voices of artists and designers to engage a range of social and ecological concerns.

Students in this minor will take a studio course, Global Culture and Ecology, and a science course, Ecology and Resilience. Just a very few of the many studio, research, math, and science electives available to students in this minor include Utopia/Dystopia, Social Practice, Native American Studies, Biogeography of the Pacific Northwest, and Urban and Forest Botany. Courses fulfill requirements in the Liberal Arts, as well as electives across all studio departments.

For more information, please contact program Lead, Professor Daniela Molnar


The Art and Ecology minor is open to all majors. There are two required 3 credit course and a menu of electives to fulfill existing studio and liberal arts course requirements.


Each enrolled student receives an individual Academic Plan that outlines how this minor fits into their course of study as well as ongoing guidance by faculty to ensure that curricular choices support your goals and interests.

15 credits / 5 classes:
1 required studio course (3 credits)
1 required science course (3 credits)***
3 electives, either Studio or Liberal Arts (9 credits)

***This is not an additional science course. Rather, as part of fulfilling their required science classes, students enrolled in this minor are required to take SCI223/323 Ecology and Resilience.


Theory & Practice: Global Culture and Ecology (IM201)

This studio-based, media blind seminar examines climate change and other global issues in order to form a foundational understanding of ecological principles, contemporary global society, and the complex ways that they interact.  Students will explore new models of social awareness and cultural production and learn from how artists and designers are already responding in creative ways to social and ecological issues. Through projects, critiques, lectures, discussions of readings, research and writing, visiting artists, and field trips, students will produce studio work reflecting these pressing issues. Prerequisite: Foundation studio courses and LA121-122, LA125.

Ecology and Resilience (SCI223/323)

This class will examine concepts in ecology and earth systems, and the ways anthropogenic influences are shaping these systems to define our environment. Students will become familiar with fundamental principles directing large-scale interactions of climate, oceans and the biosphere, as well as examining recent anthropogenic impacts from climate change and toxic pollution to the sixth extinction. Students will also be concerned with our engagement within these systems, broaching concepts of how nature is perceived to how we develop resilience mechanisms to move through changing patterns in the world we live. Environmental and social justice, ecological thought, and activism will be central themes.

Each semester of this science class introduces and explores the scientific worldview and its impact on the contemporary landscape and society through a variety of windows. Students learn scientific vocabulary and principles, practice empirical interpretation of the physical world, are introduced to current research areas, and investigate parallels between science, sociology, and the arts. Topics range from global to local interests including: Global Environmental Issues, Food Production and our Environment, Evolution, and Plant Ecology of the Pacific Northwest. Prerequisite: LA121-122.


Studio Electives:

Theory & Practice - Homeland: The American Landscape
Theory & Practice - Art and Anthropology
Theory & Practice Utopia/Dystopia
Intermedia Studio: Offsite Projects
Social Practice: Art and Community
Design Studio II: Culture and Audience
Design Studio II: Rhetoric & Persuasion

Liberal Arts Electives (a rotation of the following electives provides options for fulfilling this minor):

City as Site
The Steamy 19th Century
The Oily 20th Century
Native American Studies
Race, Racism, and American Law To Migrate
Cultural Studies:Intro to Disciplines
Art, Society and Mass Media
Dancing in the Streets; A History of Joy
Outcasts, Rebels, and Misfits that have Changed the World or Failed Trying
Social Ecology of Latin America
History of Weapons
Literature Seminar: Doing Time: The Literature of Labor and Incarceration
Research for a Creative Practice
Modeling Real World Data with Information
Size and Scale: Growth and Decay
Natural Science Urban Botany
Urban and Forest Botany
Biogeography of the Pacific Northwest
Ecology and Resilience
Climate and Water
Food + Science


Daniela Molnar

Lead Faculty, Art + Ecology Minor; Associate Professor in Foundation, Painting + Drawing, Intermedia, Liberal Arts, and MFA Visual Studies

MA 2006 University of California at Santa Cruz (Science Illustration) 
BA 2000 The Evergreen State College (Art and Environmental Studies)

Daniela Molnar is a multidisciplinary artist and designer. Her projects include art direction, design, a collaborative poetry/public art project, writing, and painting. She is a Trip Leader and President of the Board for Signal Fire, an organization that provides opportunities for artists to engage with public wild lands.She is Art Editor of The Bear Deluxe Magazine, a publication devoted to exploring environmental issues through the arts, and Art Director of Leaf Litter, Signal Fire’s art and literary journal. She is a full time Assistant Professor at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, where she has been teaching undergraduate and graduate students about painting, drawing, visual culture, critical theory, pedagogy, and illustration since 2007.