More than just a Pretty Picture: Art Students Combat Plastic Pollution

Hello! It’s Kara Salinas, Spare Parts artist/educator writing about Margaret Bennett’s advanced art classroom participation in Spare Parts’ #Take5forSA project. Ms. Bennett at Brackenridge High School in San Antonio Independent School District. These students created reuse art for Spare Parts #Take5forSA, which is a month long online residency created by founder Mary Elizabeth Cantu that invites the public to reimagine trash by creative reuse. This is how it works: five pieces of trash are found daily for a month, picked up and then creatively reimagined into something new to encourage a more trash aware public. Here is the #Take5forSA project by local artist Laurel Gibson. Kimberly Garza, artist, also partook in #Take5forSA.

Ms. Bennett contacted Spare Parts after an online search about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch guided her class to our website. These students learned about Spare Parts’ visit to Hawaii and decided to focus their annual classroom project on making art to promote awareness about the devastation of ocean pollution. 

Spare Parts artist/educator presents about “Spare Parts Crosses the Pacific” with our founder Mary Elizabeth Cantu to Ms. Bennett’s advanced art students at Brackenridge High School. Students learned about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and were informed about organizations such as Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. 
Brackenridge High School students in Ms. Bennett’s advanced art class began work on their large installation sculptures for their exhibit titled “Seasick.” This tentacle, a work in progress at the time of this picture, is filled with newspapers and plastic bags. The concept for this sculpture came from Brackenridge High School student Andrew Gonzales, 11th grade. Also pictured, an information display developed to educate the campus about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
 
Left: five pieces of found litter: a plastic utensil, gum wrapper, plastic bag, fruit wrapper and a plastic spring. Right: five pieces of litter reimagined by creative reuse into a seahorse by Brackenridge High School student Olivia Wilkerson-Carter, 11th grade
Bottom and top right: five pieces of found litter. Here: plastic forks, hair elastic, plastic hook and scrap metal.  Top left: five pieces of litter reimagined by creative reuse into a horse by Brackenridge High School student Jorge Reyes, 11th grade. #Take5forSA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brackenridge High School students participating in our #Take5forSA project rose to the occasion and participated beach cleanup with their art teacher Ms. Bennett. They planned a trip to take part in the 2018 Texas Adopt-A-Beach Winter Beach Cleanup in the Coastal Bend Area, which took place on Saturday, February 10, 2018. Students found several plastic toys, nets, ropes and shoes during the South Padre Island beach cleanup. These findings would further inspire all as they worked on their upcoming exhibit “Seasick,” which would open at Brackenridge High School, 400 Eagleland Drive, on April 5, 2018.

Top left and right: student-found beach litter on the Texas Coast such as plastic toys, a marble, plastic bottle cap and a plastic comb. Bottom and right: Beach cleanup team featuring Brackenridge H.S. student Litzi Rojas,12th grade, who is holding the yellow collection bag, and Ms. Bennett’s advanced art students attending the 2018 Texas Adopt-A-Beach Winter Beach Cleanup on Saturday, February 10, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Seasick,” curated by Margaret Bennett, consists of a variety of student art works created by those participating in our #Take5forSA Instagram-based project. These works of art are created with trash found in and around their campus, and also from their February beach cleanup. Ms. Bennett and her students are inspired by Jack Johnson’s music, which she played in her classroom art studio. He is a musician and an environmental activist; their exhibit “Seasick” is a tribute to his song “Seasick Dream.” “Seasick” features art works such as sculpture, stop motion video, assemblage, repoussé and performance art.

“Plastic bag monster” performance art, worn by Brackenridge High School student Gabe Woltz, 12th grade, during “Seasick” art exhibition.
Top middle photo: Margaret Bennett (l) talking with Spare Parts artist/educator Laurel Bodinus (r) during “Seasick” reception at Brackenridge High School on April 5, 2018 curated by art teacher Margaret Bennett.

Since the opening of  “Seasick” the response from attendees are very positive.

“My husband and I were really blown away by the exhibit. It was so
colorful and imaginative. You could tell the students took this project to
heart by creating such a striking display. To think these art pieces used a
teeny, tiny fraction of the trash and plastic pollution in our oceans made
an impact on the artists and audience as well. This show should travel!”
-Laura Carter, President Friends of Spare Parts Board of Directors

Feedback from participating Brackenridge High School students in #Take5forSA have been positive, too.

“The trip allowed me to physically see the effects of plastic and pollution
on the environment, and has since increased my interest in solving the
problem in the future. So once again thank you, because we couldn’t
have done it without your help.”
-Elizabeth De Hoyos, Brackenridge H.S., 12th grade

“It was a learning experience for us all. It allowed me to see that our
actions do have consequences, but it is not too late to fix what we have
wronged. ”
-Olivia Wilkerson-Carter, Brackenridge H.S., 12th grade

To view the stop motion animated shorts from “Seasick” please click here.

Mr. Flores Visits Materials for the Arts

Here’s the front entrance of MFTA. I’m all bundled up; it was really cold in NYC over spring break.

By: Daniel Flores

 

As a full-time art teacher, I decided to take a trip to New York City during my Spring Break. As an art enthusiast, I wanted to see all the remarkable museums, architecture and design New York has to offer.

Having been a volunteer and now an educator for Spare Parts—whose mission is to advance reuse education through the arts—I’m always looking for new reuse ideas for art projects. In New York City, Materials for the Arts (MFTA) is the place to go! The Executive Director of Spare Parts Mary Elizabeth Cantú helped set up a ‘meet and greet’ with MFTA Director Harriet Taub.

MFTA is a very large building. When I first walked in, I got the sense it was a warehouse in a previous life. Up the elevator and into the entrance you see the Material for the Arts welcome sign.

There are encouraging and inspirational signs throughout the halls of MFTA.

 

Entering the office space, I was welcomed by one of the educators with a warm and friendly handshake. I received the grand tour of this magnificent space. Before stepping inside the impressive shop area of donated reusable items, you walk through the hallway of MFTA’s resident artists’ extraordinary work. All the exhibited works are created using reusable and re-purposed materials.

You then enter a secured door into the shop area, imagine a Costco or Sam’s but on a slightly smaller scale. All items are so organized and placed in a way unlike anything I’ve seen before. These items aren’t your regular paints and brushes, but categorized as books, office items, furniture, plastics, metals, etc. The books are categorized into fiction and nonfiction. Imagine walking into a huge Michael’s or a Hobby Lobby store. MFTA has creative displays at the front end of the aisles demonstrating various imaginative to give these materials a new life.

Here is one of the cool displays in the MFTA warehouse showing “How do we reuse Christmas ornaments?” By making a solar system, of course.

These displays and donated items are just a little bit of what you get to see from this outstanding facility. After the tour, I learned there is MFTA programming. MFTA offers ‘make and; take classes’ to surrounding schools. I was excited to see the educators in action. They are teaching New York’s young minds about the importance of reuse.

As an art educator, sometimes I think we forget, and need to be reminded—it’s not all about markers and crayons. MFTA is huge benefit for the City of New York. As a team member of Spare Parts, we are always looking for and learning new ways to teach our children, teens and the young at heart, how to use these items that might be forgotten or even thrown away. Visiting MFTA was important for me to get an interactive experience and spread these creative reuse ideas by bringing them to San Antonio.

Here’s an educator at work in a classroom setting telling kids about the importance of reuse.
New York City’s’s young minds are prompt to make robots from donated, preloved items.

I wanted to extend a thank you to MFTA and Director Harriet Taub for their generous hospitality, time and sharing of knowledge. Observing their educators in action was so encouraging and I will bring everything I learned to Spare Parts. Their warehouse is inspiring, and I look forward to help recreate it with the Spare Parts San Antonio team.

MFTA’s Executive Director Harriet Taub and me are standing in front of artwork made by the youth of New York City.

Give a darn about t-shirt yarn.

By: Laura Kraus, Spare Parts Volunteer Coordinator

One of the first memories I had of visiting my grandparents in California were the amazing t-shirt rugs made by my great grandmother. Spiraled up and tightly braided, they were multicolored, cushy things perfect for digging your bare toes into as you noted all the work that went into them. Of course, at the time I didn’t pay attention to the work. It was only years later, when I actually attempted to make one that I fully appreciated what goes into a braided t-shirt rug. And I’m not just talking about the braiding and sewing together of the t-shirt yarn! Have you ever stopped and thought about what goes into making a plain old t-shirt?

It takes about 400 – 600 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make a t-shirt. This really surprised me, as well as scared me, considering how abundant t-shirts are in our society. That’s a lot of water. According to an article in the Economist, making 1kg of fabric of any kind generates 23kg of greenhouse gases on average. Further research on the website Mental Floss led to this surprising information about how a t-shirt is made and where all it has to travel to become the t-shirt that you see in a store: After the cotton is grown on a farm in one part of the world, a process that requires large amounts of water and pesticides, it needs to be treated, woven, and dyed at a facility, sometimes in a totally separate country.

Yes, this is depressing, but we can do something about it, and as a matter of fact, there are people who already are, like Alex Eaves, who made a business out of reusing old t-shirts. He even made a documentary called, “Reuse! Because you can’t recycle the planet” and Spare Parts is featured in it. Eaves prints his message on old t-shirts and sells them to help fund his cause.

What can you personally do about it? Refuse fast fashion. Reuse once you wear out your favorite t-shirt by making it into t-shirt yarn, using one of the tutorials in the links below. Tell your friends. Be social and get the word out on the “interwebs.” We can make a difference together. And don’t forget to tag Spare Parts on social media with a photo of your own reuse creation! #reusegotmethinking #reusesanantonio

Resources on how to make T-Shirt yarn
The Spruce – How to Make T-Shirt Yarn
Instructables T-Shirt Yarn

UpcycledStuff

How to make T-Shirt Yarn