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.”

 

 

Creative Reuse—getting your art & craft on

The concept of creative reuse aka upcycling, remaking or repurposing is not new.  According to Grant Johnson, author of “1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse: Remake, Restyle, Recycle, Renew,” materials reuse has been around since medieval scribes scraped off and reused parchments, and the ancient Greeks melted down older bronze statues to make newer versions. Creative reuse, in its current incarnation, combines artistic expression with ecological responsibility served with a side of thrift.

In the hierarchy of what to do with our stuff, reduce should be the first action—quit buying so much stuff! Reduce means choosing to use or purchase things with care to reduce the amount of waste generated.

reuse pyramid_small

Reuse is different from recycling, where the products are broken down treuse 1o its component parts and re-manufactured into new products. Creative reuse is also different from conventional reuse, where the product is used in its original purpose again.

Recycle means the conversion of a waste to form a new product.

Disposal is the magical ‘disappearance’ of all other trash to the landfill where most of it never, ever really goes away.

 

So have we piqued your interest to learn more about creative reuse? Wondering how to get started? The San Antonio Public Library is always a good resource for ideas and inspiration. Here’s a list of books complied by one of their helpful librarians.

“Modern upcycling: a user-friendly guide to inspiring and repurposed handicrafts for a trendy home”

“Reclaimed textiles: techniques for paper, stitch, plastic and mixed media”

“Vintage reuse 2made modern: transforming timeworn textiles into treasured heirlooms”

“Creative recycling in embroidery”

“The Salvage Sisters’ guide to finding style in the street and inspiration in the attic”

“Trash formations east”Johnson book

Quoted in the first paragraph, Grant Johnson’s book is full of marvelous art work pictures with corresponding materials list.

Several other hands-on avenues are also available. Leading the charge in San Antonio for creative reuse is spare parts founded by Mary Elizabeth Cantu in 2010. spare parts offers cultural and environmental sustainability, affordability and accessibility to the arts through education. A large variety of workshops and projects at schools and community wide-events are held throughout the year. Attending an event or volunteering with the organization can impart insights and instructions.creative reuse art table

In addition there are many “maker” organizations and events popping up around town. The ‘maker culture’ invites people of all ages to be creative in a plethora of venues including—technology, DIY projects, artistic expression. Many of these projects are creative reuse. “Make San Antonio a creative hub for makers of all ages” is a good example.

Argentinian artist Elisa Insua calls her creative reuse art “immortalizing meaningless trash into works of art.” We agree.Elisa_Insua_-_WS_-_Herospace