Emeritus professor Mark Reader has a unique way of advocating for the environment: Art.
Reader is a talented painter with a history of protesting going back to the ’60s. In 1967, he had just moved from Pennsylvania and was teaching political theory at Arizona State University when Arizona began to experience the harmful effects of automobile exhaust and smokestack emissions. According to Reader, the visibility back then was so bad one couldn’t see Camelback Mountain on some days. Alarmed by the situation, he joined other protesters to demand clean air and water as part of the original Earth Day.
Many students, professors and others were involved in ASU’s celebration of that first Earth Day, with demonstrations, experiments and learning activities, he recalled.
Now in his mid-80s, Reader offers an artistic perspective of a more sustainable future, creating paintings with an environmental theme to inspire people to think about a new world where we no longer consume resources but conserve them. He contributes many of his paintings to charities and educational institutions in Arizona and Washington state, including St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix and the art collection at ASU’s Emeritus College on the Downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses. He also dedicated his show at the University Center to the environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
“I invite you, through my art, to pause to think about what you can do, no matter who you are, to limit the damage that you do. We all do damage. When we start blaming each other, something common in our politics now, we don’t get anywhere. It’s not functional,” Reader said. “Human survival depends on enough people doing the right thing at the right time to avoid disaster. We have to change our cultural habits.”