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.

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.”