Collaborative project sees a creative reuse forest

Photo by Joey Lopez.
Photo by Joey Lopez.

See the Forest for the Trees is a remarkable artistic partnership between Spare Parts, the Southwest School of Art Teen Program (aka Bee Nation), and AP Art Lab. Members of Bee Nation decided they wanted to make a statement with a project for this year’s Contemporary Art Month (CAM). Under the guidance of Spare Part’s Founder and Director Mary Elizabeth Cantú 15 students collectively envisioned a large tree demonstrating the connection of art to the environment. “The theme of the exhibition revolves around the environment, material culture and waste,” explained Cantú. “Because, it’s not waste until we waste it.” Teen Program Coordinator and international installation, performance, and video artist, Julia Barbosa-Landois guarantees, “you will be wowed by this innovative installation made by local teens.”

Cardboard is everywhere. It’s used to package over 85 percent of all products sold in the United States. Seemingly innocuous, cardboard is the single largest component of municipal solid waste around the world.  Cardboard and paper waste make up 41% of the solid waste stream. According to this informative web article one ton of recycled cardboard saves:

  • 390 kWh hours of electricity
  • 46 gallons of oil
  • 6 million Btu’s of energy
  • 9 cubic yards of landfill space

It’s all about imagination and creativity

 Using over 400 square feet of discarded cardboard and reclaimed materials such as reused cardboard, plastic, paper and found objects from their homes and schools, Bee Nation students created this colorful, decorative tree to ‘uncover the aesthetics of detritus and reexamine their relationship with the discarded.’ Celia realized, “Until we did this project I had no idea the amount of trash we make as a society. It kind of freaked me out.” The student artists worked on their project beginning in January. First came the design and then the construction of the trunk and branches. Truly a tree of life there is a cornucopia of multimedia vignettes worth your while to give up close perusal. “Coming from a home of six people, we always have a LOT of toilet paper rolls. I learned that they can make really cool flower designs if you just alter their shape. That goes for all scraps of trash,” explained Alexis.

Someone said this to me the other day and it’s pretty on point – “Art is about transformation.”

See the Forest for the Trees

 

The resulting installation gives used cardboard a new life that honors its forest origins. “We didn’t know how it would look until it all came together during the installation,” said Bee Nation’s Elizabeth. Amanda Poplawsky, offered her AP Art Lab Studio located at 1906 South Flores for the exhibition. “I love working with youth in connection with social issues and activism,” she states. The above picture shows the tree from the front with closer views of some of the amazing details that went into the artistic construction. No wonder this installation won a Contemporary Art Month Cammie–the R. Mutt Award for Novel media turning something that isn’t art into art (see below photo with Cantú and Poplawsky) (March, 2016).

Cammie Award 2016

Cantú added, “Through this project I hope our artists are compelled to continue this type of art making. I hope these students see how their work can inspire and educate the community. Finally, I hope they understand that it doesn’t matter how young or young at heart you are, you have the ability to make positive change in the world.” This Tree of Life represents the hope for a healthier, more sustainable future. Because, there’s no such thing as thrown away!

 

Spare Parts is SA2020 nonprofit partner and this event was “Awesome Certified.”

 

 

spare parts founder Mary Elizabeth Cantú honored with “Art of Peace” Award

What’s the leading creative reuse arts organization in San Antonio? You only need one guess. The efforts of spare parts–to educate and demonstrate to the community the path of artistic expression through creative reuse–is unprecedented in our city. Founder and Director Mary Elizabeth Cantú, the charismatic force driving spare parts, continually challenges and inspires people of all ages to re-think the connection between environmental impact and making art.

Throughout the years, Cantú has been given media recognition, kudos and awards from such publication as San Antonio Magazine and Texas Public Radio. The MINI ART MUSEUM, a project created by Cantú and Gabriela Santiago, won Contemporary Art Month awards two years in a row. A combination of multi-faceted programs blending cultural arts, materials accessibility and environmental activism, spare parts, now in its fifth year, is reaching a pivotal point of growth and influence.

On February 17, 2016 in conjunction with St. Mary’s University’s Conference on Justice and Social Concerns, Cantú was awarded the Art of Peace award. This prestigious award was presented by the President of St. Mary’s University Tom Mengler. President Mengler describing the award, said “The artist chosen must be worthy both as an artist, in terms of quality, as determined by reputation in the artistic community and one who, through art, works for peace, as determined by reputation.”

Dr Tom Mengler Mary Cantu Dr. Winston Erevelles
St. Mary’s University President Tom Mengler, Mary Elizabeth Cantu, Dr. Winston Ervelles

This year’s conference theme was “stewardship in science” which invoked this quote by Pope Francis, “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing and it human roots, concerns and affect us all.” President Mengler prefaced the award presentation by describing the work of spare parts as dedicated to “…community education and creativity, green-style.”

“Imagine being asked to promote the arts without any resources, which was my situation several years ago,” Cantú explaining the beginning of the spare parts. “After some research and meeting a local business owner, I realized there were tons of free materials and supplies out there for creative opportunities. These materials were no longer needed but too valuable to be thrown away. I went to this business who filled my car with all sorts of cool stuff and they asked me to come back with a U-Haul.”

annual teacher materials giveaway
2015 Annual Fine Arts Fair and Teacher Giveaway at Wonderland of the Americas

The annual material giveaway for teachers was born, when Cantú realized she could divert perfectly amazing materials from the landfill and put these supplies in the hands of teachers who could use them in their art, science, math and history curriculum. Because, a class lesson is so much more interesting when it’s not taught with worksheet after worksheet.

spare parts award workshopAfter the presentation, students attended a workshop where Cantú detailed various spare parts  projects. “Truth is: there is no such thing as throwing something away,” she said, challenging the students to give a second and even third look before tossing stuff in that trash can. Students were asked to decorate a sign reminding them that “Trash is the failure of imagination (Aaron Kramer).” All materials used in spare parts workshops and projects are donated ‘leftovers’ from businesses and individuals.

spare parts award workshop group

 

spare parts various projects include community outreach workshops with arts organizations such as the McNay and Southwest School of Art, Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center and many different schools and educator groups. spare parts hands-on art tables pop up at many San Antonio City events where children and adults enjoy participating in a creative reuse art project or viewing the MINI ART MUSEUM.

spart parts award workshop poster

Upcoming spare parts events include participation in the following events:

Saturday, March 5, 2016, 27th Annual Earthwise Living Day at Leon Valley Community and Conference Center

Saturday, March 5, 7 PM – 9 PM, Opening Reception & Performance: MINI ART MUSEUM:”That Thing on the Side of the Road, Period Modern Gallery

Friday, March 25, 2016, 6 pm, Closing Reception: That Thing on the Side of the Road, ChrisPark

Saturday, March 26, 2016, Mini Maker Faire at the San Antonio Public Library

Saturday, April 2, 2016, San Antonio Book Festival at the San Antonio Library

Friday, April 15, 2016, Bohnam Academy Spring Art Festival

Interested in volunteering? Please contact sparepartstudio@gmail.com for details.

Photos by Laura Carter.

Moving Painting—the art of the swing

Imagine lying on your belly in a big fabric swing, kind of like swinging like Batman as a kid. With a non-traditional painting utensil—think silk flowers, squishy ball, hand broom, even a flip flop rubber sandal—dipped in paint. Your educator/facilitator gently pushes you over across an area of canvases collected from thrift stores to freely apply marks. Slinging, flinging, dribbling and dabbing—you’re creating a masterpiece like no other.

sacurrentMOVINGPAINTING_begin

Moving Painting is a cross-disciplinary performance and visual art experience designed by spare parts which debuted at the contemporary arts showcase event Luminaria 2015.  “The concept for Moving Painting percolated in my thoughts for some time before finally sharing it earlier this year with Gabriela Santiago and Roberta Hassele,” said Mary Cantú, Founder and Director of spare parts. “I was hesitant to talk about it because it was a wacky idea and wasn’t sure it would be accepted.”

sacurrentMOVINGPAINTING__But spare parts advisory board members Santiago and Carla Berryman (who helped write the proposal) have no problem with not only accepting, but embracing, the non-traditional art experience. Currently serving as Director/Co-Chair Contemporary Art Month San Antonio, Hassele joined the team to  bring her considerable experience and talents to the project. The result is the creation of a unique, free-form artistic experience which speaks to children and adults alike.

It challenges participants, as well as audience to rethink artistic expression.

sacurrentMOVINGPAINTING_
Captured comments from Moving Painting participants.

Luminaria looked at the proposal and noticed our performance needed to hang from a secure structure. Initial plans included the installation of scaffolding. Fortunately, CrossFit Mind Body Soul, a business on this year’s Luminaria footprint, was open to hosting Moving Painting. “Our experience was very positive with Andrew Lilly and the entire CrossFit staff, “states Cantú. Lilly described Moving Painting as “unique because you’re constantly moving around the paintings seeing everything from a different angle/perspective instead just staring at it straight up and down as it sits still in front of you.”

Kinetic, creative, interactive, colorful, wacky and fun

It’s nostalgic; it reminds people of swinging on the playground. It’s open ended: you can paint as much or as little as you want; you can experiment with colors and mark making.

“I would love to see Moving Painting installed in the middle of huge closed arena like the Alamodome; at The DoSeum, out in a grand public place like Market Square; at a venue such as Brick at Blue Star,” said Hassele. “Or, at parks, birthday parties, in museums, back at Crossfit MBS, team-building events for businesses/organizations, in your backyard, Fiesta, Siclovia, and Chalk It Up (replace paint for chalk),” added Cantú. “There are endless possibilities.”

Nina Hassele (l) & Mary Cantu (r)
Roberta Hassele (l) & Mary Cantu (r)

Good news! The Moving Painting experience is for hire. If you are interested in the bringing this unique fun to your next event. Contact sparepartstudio@gmail.com.

Luminaria: Established in 2008, Luminaria is a contemporary arts festival unique to San Antonio. The two-night event is a celebration of the arts presenting new works by performance, literary and visual artists.