Francis Whitehead shared with students Wednesday night projects she's working on to promote sustainability in art and design.

Whitehead is a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she founded the Knowledge Lab and the Chicago Center for Climate and Culture, a research center for the study of the cultural dimension of sustainable urbanism.

Project include one of her own home and studio with husband, James Elniski, in Chicago — known as the "GreenHouse Chicago." Whitehead said she sees the project of her home as the “urban life for the future”.

The home includes cutting-edge energy technology with locally sourced materials as an example of sustainable urban living.

Whitehead said the house itself became art.

Whitehead considers herself a “designist” because most of her recent work has not only been for the purpose of art, but also for design and practicality. She also incorporates science into a lot of her projects that include plants.

Whitehead has been working on a project to revitalize abandoned gas station lots in the Chicago area that have been polluted. She and other members of the project look at what plants help rid the soil of the toxins through their roots and while they are growing.

Whitehead said the purpose of that project is to “redesign the city.”

She has worked with many people, combining art practices with other forms of social practice. In 2001, she founded ARTetal Studio to undertake public projects and design focused on innovation, cultural change and environmental awareness. ARTetal is developing a series of initiatives, including the Embedded Artist Project with the City of Chicago Innovation Program and the Great Lakes Basin Phenologic Garden Project — a climate change and culture change initiative for the Chicago Park District.

She has received grants and awards including the National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence grant, the Tiffany Foundation Award and the Acuff Chair of Excellence in Visual Art.

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