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.

#Take5forSA virtual artist-in-residence Laurel Gibson

Laurel Gibson

San Antonio artist/educator Laurel Gibson was Spare Parts’ second virtual artist-in-residence for a #Take5forSA project. The challenge: for the entire month of February, post daily on the Spare Parts Instagram page five discarded items that would, at the end of the month, be creatively reused.

Interviewer Laura Carter delved into Gibson’s creative mind with a discussion regarding the nature of her art & the collaboration with Spare Parts.

When we first met at the Spare Parts Pop Up Shop at SoFlo Market, I asked you what you did for a living. And, you said enthusiastically, “I’m an artist!” Who or what has inspired or influenced you, creatively speaking?

Laurel: I have been making art as long as I can remember. My grandmother was a fashion illustrator for a newspaper in Illinois. My parents did not discourage me expressing myself through, sometimes very different, ways. As a young girl growing up in Arizona, I was fascinated with what I saw around me. I found I could express myself in art, in the act of being creative. I used to make designs from cactus needles, flower petals, things I found lying around. I found a broken watch & used it, with other found objects, to make a figure of a person. (This was the first thing that actually drew praise from my father.)  I liked drawing & making sculptures as well. What really influences my art is life. I enjoy the process of bringing an idea or vision to life—making it a reality.

When did you first realize making art was what you wanted to do as a profession?

Laurel: At the age of about 11 or 12, I told my mother I wanted to make art a career. Her response was that I needed to practice.  So, I did. I was obsessive in a way. Later, I earned an undergraduate degree in art in Arizona & a Master of Art in Ceramics from the University of Texas San Antonio. I like to challenge myself through artistic expression. Though my focus is ceramics, I work in a variety of mediums. I teach art classes at several different places, including Bihl Haus Arts. I take commissions & work on funded projects.

We are thrilled you chose to share your artistic reuse talents with Spare Parts. What was it that drew your attention to this project?

Louis Armstrong on piano roll paper by Laurel Gibson
Used coffee filters with embroidered design by Laurel Gibson

Laurel: About 50% of my art is created from reused materials. Taking found objects, leftover materials, trash even, for use in an artistic expression. For example, used coffee filters (right) or old piano rolls (left). I saw the first artist doing the #Take5forSA project & thought, “Oh, yeah, I can do this. The most challenging aspect was finding those five items for each day in February, was working it into my teaching schedule etc.”  When I took a vacation to Padre Island, I picked up some interesting materials on the beach. 

To someone who asks, “Just what are these #Take5forSA pieces used for?” Well, Gibson made unique refrigerator magnets. Great idea! We say it’s a plus the materials are no longer litter or in the landfill. 

What might be some of your next artistic challenges?

Laurel:  What really drives me is making something impossible happen. I have a commissioned project rolling around in my mind.  When I work on a project, I like to remain “ignorant” of what other artists have done with similar challenges so I can get my own inspiration.  I think I’d like to get back to ceramics for a bit. I’d like to do more collaboration with Spare Parts as well.