Spare Parts Crosses The Pacific

Kara Michele Salinas

Aloha y’all!

by Kara Michele Salinas, Artist & Spare Parts Educator

Spare Parts travelled to Hawaii October 31-November 6, 2017 to learn first-hand about the poisoning our planet’s oceans due to plastic pollution, and meet organizations on Oahu devoted to tackling this crisis. This is an issue important to me, my family and my art and design practice. I knew that what we experienced would directly benefit Spare Parts’ body of knowledge and in turn increase environmental educational awareness in San Antonio.

Our vision: through programing, education and physical development, Spare Parts empowers citizens to reduce landfill tonnage through reuse and environmental accountability.

Our Spare Parts autumn adventure began with a flight from Austin, Texas to Honolulu, Hawaii. Mary Cantu, founder of Spare Parts, and I brought the Latin American-rooted celebration of Dia de Los Muertos to the eco-friendly organization Art Explorium. The relationship between Spare Parts and Art Explorium began four years ago when we were contacted for programming guidance. Read this blog posting by Laura Carter. Carter followed up with Art Explorium two years later in 2015.

The first full day in Hawaii Mary and I installed a Dia de Los Muertos Altar at Art Explorium using preloved materials, of which some were sourced locally in Texas with the remaining found in thrift stores in Hawaii.

We connected with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii at Turtle Bay in the North Shore. At our meeting we learned that Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii does not consist of a building footprint, but rather it is a compost area, storage bins and a storage container for the trash that is collected from Hawaii’s shores. Several of the collected plastics have labels depicting language from other countries, and this served as a reminder that trash does not need a passport to travel. I left the meeting reminded of the urgency to continue educating and practicing the four R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

I then led a creative reuse workshop at Art Explorium focused on teaching a soft sculpture activity for Dia de Los Muertos; a three-dimensional skull. The children also learned how to create paper marigolds and papel picado streamers plus they enjoyed some Mexican hot chocolate. Our trip to Hawaii closed with sightseeing, hiking and a drive along the Hawaiian scenic route to visit beautiful spots such as Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay. Mahalo!

 

The best aloha is a beautiful rainbow over Waikiki Beach, HI. View from a lanai at the Hale Koa Hotel.
Betty Boop hula art found at Bailey’s Antiques & Aloha Shirts, 517 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, Oahu, HI. This is the best place to find a ton of pop culture collectibles from all over the world. From the right: Cantu and me.
Collectables like vintage matchbooks diverted from the trash found at Bailey’s Antiques & Aloha Shirts, Honolulu.

 

Here I’m installing the Spare Parts Dia de Los Muertos Altar at Art Explorium located in the Kaimuki neighborhood of Honolulu.
I led the Spare Parts Dia de Los Muertos skull workshop at Art Explorium. The children in this picture are learning how to repurpose fabric and sewing scraps into a soft skull sculpture.
Here’s our community Dia de Los Muertos Altar at Art Explorium.
There are farm fresh produce stands found along the way to Turtle Bay Beach in the North Shore.
Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii located at Turtle Bay in the North Shore. From left: Luis Linares, Sustainable Coastlines volunteer & advocate, Cantu and me.
This photograph shows a close-up from the inside of the Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii recycling bins. Beach cleaning volunteers find numerous forms of trash discarded into the ocean including ropes, fishing nets, plastic and micro plastics.
The last portion of the trip allowed for sight seeing along Hawaii’s scenic route. Here’s Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. This image illustrates the beauty found in Hawaii and the urgency to keep our coastlines free from pollution.

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.