Carolina Aragón’s exuberance for her work is palpable in the first minute of a conversation. Clearly, she loves what she does in a job that encourages creativity and innovation amongst her students. In the context of design work, she is in the business of, “What If?” For example, what if we can make beautiful benches using just recycled tires? What if we could produce enough solar power in public spaces to really make a difference? What if we can inspire residents to change their environmental practices?
Aragon, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at UMass Amherst, is an artist in her own right. As an educator, she uses public art to transform landscapes, engage communities, and teach students. She holds a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and a Bachelor of Architecture from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Carolina's professional practice in the field of landscape architecture focuses on green infrastructure through the creative design of green roofs and sustainable storm water projects.
As a public artist, Aragon works to transform the perception of the built environment through the creation of temporary installations. “Flocks” offered Cambridge residents a dynamic view of reflective birds appearing to fly over their street-a memorable and beautiful experience. “Ripples,” installed in Boston, was inspired by the dynamic light reflection at a waterfront park. These ephemeral pieces act as environmental sensors that heighten our sense of place. As part of this work, Aragon has also designed unique educational and outreach opportunities for community groups, K-12, and university students. She believes that teaching is the art of inspiring students to be curious, critical and confident to pursue their passions. Most recently, UMass Amherst students incorporated materials from the campus’ Waste Transfer Station and “upcycled” them to create attractive and comfortable outdoor chair prototypes as part of a public space design studio that looked into the redesign of some of the campus’ underutilized public spaces. Aragon has several deep-seated beliefs about teaching. One of them is that in order to promote creativity and innovation one must create an environment where there are no wrong answers, and students are encouraged to see failing as feedback in the process of creating something new.
Aragon, born in Cali, Colombia, was an active child who always enjoyed working with her hands. She was an enterprising child who started a business in 6th grade making and selling hair scrunchies and decorative boxes. She figured out what people liked. Her personality allows for an open heart, having equal respect for the boss and the cleaning lady. Her greatest satisfaction is when the general public, especially children, enjoy her artwork. She says, “If people smile, you know you’ve done a good job.”
Aragon focuses her teaching on people and the world around them. Art installations designed by her classes appeal to the senses and respond to the elements. If you want to experience a fine example of her work, plan to walk through a photoluminescent labyrinth from April 18-25th on the Metawampee Lawn.. This installation will feature the use of smart materials that are charged with sunlight during the day and slowly release light throughout the night creating a beautiful, interactive offering.
Starting in mid-May, Carolina will exhibit her installation, “High Tide,” on the RFK Greenway in Boston. High Tide is an installation that seeks to connect the public to Boston’s tidal landscape, where the boundary of land and water exists as a fluctuating element. As an abstraction of an inundated marsh, the installation will shed light into Boston’s historic shifting shoreline and future fluctuation due to sea level rise resulting from global warming.
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