Voces en Aumento: Voices Rising

Project developed by Kristen Murphy Heeres with 2nd graders of Holm Elementary School, Denver

“If many little people, in many little places, do many little things, they can change the face of the Earth.” – African Proverb

Message in a Bottle pieces created in a workshop facilitated by Kristen Heeres at Holm Elementary, Denver
Message in a Bottle pieces created in a workshop facilitated by Kristen Heeres at Holm Elementary, Denver. This work won an award from the Colorado State Governor’s office for innovative arts programs.

Plastic debris in our oceans and on land is a global problem. This problem did not exist a decade ago nor did it exist before in the history of our planet. This plastic waste has become “the ghosts of our consumption.” In conjunction to studying animals in Ms. Felix’s grade class, the students worked in art to show the affects plastic waste has on these animals and their habitat and give them a voice that will rise up and let the world’s love of animals and the earth motivate change. The students understood through their research and lessons that science tells us how something really is and how it works but does not express how one feels. Through this work, they have created a synergy between art and science.

The students began this study by exploring how plastic waste begins from storm drains, gyres in the ocean to daily littering. They understood that although some of the littering is not accidental, many people are unaware of the affects it plays in nature and others may think the world is so big a little trash wouldn’t hurt. The students know it is their job to speak for the animals and their world and educate others to on how to keep the earth clean. The students explored their own school grounds and gathered bags of trash some of which they recycled or disposed of and other trash was cleaned and selected to adorn their artwork with. Each of their animals has debris on them but used it in a way to express a need for change. Upon finishing their animals the students each created an inkblot landscape to place their animals on to exemplify the permanency of this global problem if actions are not taken by all members of our society to stop this problem.

The paper mache tree is an emblem of growth and can be added to over time by other classes or groups around the world. The branches reach out to our world with messages of hope and awareness. The leaves were an oil and water experiment we conducted to show the affects an oil spill has on animals and their habitat. Lastly, the students photographed their work and used a gel medium to transfer their images on to foam so their work could be more mobile and allow room for others to join in their efforts. In this installation, art and young hands will play a role in making all aware of this global problem through visual voices.

Kristen Heeres led her students through a process of collecting litter around the school and collaging the plastic into a printmaking technique. This allowed the students to tune into the trash present into their own spheres. The animals that inspired these works came from a study of local river ecologies.
Kristen Heeres led her students through a process of collecting plastic litter around the schoolyard and collaging the plastic into a printmaking technique. This allowed the students to tune into the trash present into their own spheres. The animals that inspired these works came from a study of local river ecologies.

 

Message in a Bottle
Denver Aquarium

Are you afraid of ghosts? This installation should really scare you because it reflects the “ghosts of our consumption” that are lurking in every corner and on every shore around the globe. Instead of collecting seashells on the shore, you can collect vibrant sun-bleached and patina-worn plastic. Plastic pollution is a growing problem that must be stopped and awareness through love is the students’ mission. The second graders set forth as scientists and studied these animals. They learned about where they live, what they eat and more. As artists they explored how an animal is affected by this global problem and created a work of art to express a “Message in a Bottle” that shows how these animals truly feel and are affected by plastic waste. Their intent is to “nudge” others with these works of art and motivate a “LOVE” that will promote change.

This problem DID NOT exist a generation ago but now this generation wants to make a change for their future and the future of our sea life, wildlife and majestic lands around the world. Help them in their efforts by educating one another about the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling!


Kristen in available for consulting on how to integrate the Debris project into school curriculum: klh08@comcast.net – 720-878-5254

Et toi, qu’est-ce que tu vois?

Do you see what I see?

Entry to the exhibition

Château de la Napoule, France

It was La Napoule Art Foundation that initiated the Debris Project by providing the time and space to develop the foundation of the project during a residency that was geared towards creating work with a young audience in mind. The question, ‘Do You See What I See?’ was intended to celebrate the many perspectives through which our age, experiences, and culture inform our creation of and connection to art. Lee Lee was one of seven artists awarded the residency. The creatures she created there were inspired by figurative works sculpted by Henry Clews in the prior century. An unconventional artist for his time, Henry Clews created an amazing array of sculptures, primarily out of stone. Many of his works were integrated into the structure of the Château as he and his wife, Marie, renovated the ancient structure. His work seemed to be inspired by sea life, perhaps because the Château is perched on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. There were strange plankton like creatures swimming across arches, and birds perched atop pillars that would peer down on the artists as we dined in the great hall or walk along the arcades around the courtyards. It was a delight to let his work inspire the sea creatures created there, and it was a perfect place to build the foundation of the Debris project. The proposed Debris Project relied on children’s natural inclination towards animals as well as the fact that children today are particularly in tune with issues which define the world which they will inherit.

Because some of the big issues they face are environmental scarcity, it is a gift for children to be informed about issues like plastic pollution. So that they may take ownership of their future, it is important to engage them on pertinent issues through hands on activity in order to help them develop their voices as they explore how to express their intentions. It is inspiring to see a demonstrated interest in having an impact on the world while they are still young. As adults, we can feel encouraged by the idealism of youth in order to contribute to solving environmental issues that are global in scope. Plastic is a material which transcends our differences and has a tremendous impact on all of us. It is one of the most important materials of our age because we simply do not have the natural resources to support our population without it. However, single use plastics are wreaking havoc on both our health and the environment. It is made from a limited resource, it does not cycle back into the environment which creates an inordinate amount of waste and damage to wildlife, and the chemicals which make up plastic are now linked to some of our biggest health concerns today. Extensive research into the nature of plastic pollution has made it clear that the most promising solutions lay at reducing waste at the source, which means that we need to change the cultural paradigm of how we consume materials like plastic.

In 2014, the work produced during the residency was exhibited at the Château de la Napoule, who invited the artists to incorporate an interactive element to the installation. It was this request that inspired the hands on nature of the installation which then led towards the development of the project as a platform for collaboration. Art is an engaging platform on which to explore creative ideas and solutions to problems that affect us all. Because plastic fills our lives, it is a very familiar material which is often taken for granted. The Debris Project was developed to encourage children to consider this very common material in new ways by paying attention to how we use material in our daily lives. It is important to encourage youth to practice awareness of their own actions in the context of the larger world around them. In doing so, they may feel empowered to incorporate small changes in their own lives which would inspire waves of change in the larger spheres of their families and communities. As a compliment to the formal installation, an important development in the project was the interactive element where children could create their own art works from found plastic objects that would otherwise be laid to waste, with hopes that it would inspire reconsideration in re-purposing materials. From the beginning, the intention was to take the project beyond the scope of this particular residency, by finding ways to integrate an interactive element into educational programming at home and abroad in order to engage children on the subject of plastic. An online presence presents the works created as well as reflections of the processes that evolve in order to build a virtual dialogue around this material which touches us all.

Lee Lee installing the Debris Project at the Chateau de la Napoule, France. Photo by Michael Gadlin
Interactive portion of the Debris Project at the Chateau de la Napoule

A Voice from the Ghetto

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

A weave made of re-puposed plastic spaghetti packaging by Myrlande Carrenard. She makes purses out of the fabric, adding value to the material.
A weave made of re-puposed plastic spaghetti packaging by Myrlande Carrenard. She makes purses out of the fabric, adding value to the material while building a small industry for herself.

Walking through Cité Dieu is bleak. Four years after the big earthquake of 2010, the neighborhood remains askew, like many ghettos throughout Port-Au-Prince. Cold, grey cement structures jut out at odd angles, having been shaken out of place and never fully repaired. The alleyways are filled with an eerie silence as quiet desperation ensues. This particular ghetto is tucked in beside a dump along the sea. The dump receives waste from the more affluent neighborhoods on the hill whereas in the ghettos, trash is not picked up more than once a month. It fills the twisted alleyways and clogs the drainages as it slowly makes its way into the Caribbean Sea. It would not be at all surprising if Port-au-Prince was the primary contributor of marine debris in the Caribbean simply because of the lack of civic infrastructure in the most densely populated neighborhoods, the poorest of which lay closest to the sea, downstream from the rest.

Crossing the Boulevard Harry Truman, we are greeted with the warm buzz of industry in the Grand Rue neighborhood inhabited by the Atis Rezistans. The creative community consists of craftsmen and fine artists and offers a marked contrast to the desolate quality of Cité Dieu. Haitians have long been subjected to the impositions of outsider worldviews while suffering severe injustices due to globalization. However, in the face of severe poverty, this community has developed alternative economies based on creative capital and has gained a deserved respect for their visual practice. The artists blend woodworking traditions with contemporary materials like metal, tires and plastic to create poignant reflections of the economic disparities they face. They make use of material discarded by the surrounding autoworkers and machinists, implementing a sort of creative ecology which offers new life to unwanted materials. People here have an acute understanding of the waste they produce because it stays present in their sphere, whereas the waste stream is hidden from urban environments elsewhere. We can draw from this understanding and learn how to transform discarded material into useful objects or art which speaks specifically of place. Making use of the material that passes through their sphere is transformative both physically in the material, and conceptually in the issues comprised therein.

Re-purposed truck beds are built into the wall of a house in Lakou Papa Da in the Atis Rezistanz community
Re-purposed plastic truck beds are built into the wall of a house in Lakou Papa Da in the Atis Rezistanz community

Louis Kervens is a proud twelve year old with straight shoulders, a gleaming perfect smile and a heart he holds out in front of him. He made a representation of the Vodoun Lwa, Boussou, a spirit protector of the seas. More than anything, the seas need a protector, and his image recognizes that need. In the overall installation, Louis’s piece speaks of no other place than Haiti. Instead of imposing a singular idea of how this collaboration should be shaped, the Debris Project remains open to gathering the distinctive voices that grow out of a particular place. This allows for authentic representations from a diverse range of people who share a concern about this material which touches us all. In gathering expressions specific to place from all over the world, the installation becomes a large scaled call for awareness and action that stems from localized interpretations of the waste present in the waters that connect us.

www.atis-rezistans.com

Foundations: Chateau de la Napoule

In 2012, La Napoule Art Foundation offered a residency for artists to create work specifically for a young audience in mind. As a new mom, I was moved to create work about environmental issues my son will face in his lifetime. Plastic, the chemicals that make up the material, as well as the chemicals used in industrial agriculture became of primary concern since I started feeding him his first foods. The intentions expressed in the proposal below became the foundation for the Debris Project.

Creating original works for the Debris Project at the Chateau de la Napoule. Photo by Michael Gadlin

Proposal for the Children themed residency at the Chateau de la Napoule:

Through the myriad of perspectives of age and place, I would like to explore a single material which transcends our differences and has a tremendous impact on all of us; Plastic.

Plastic is one of the most important materials in our lives. We simply do not have the natural resources to support our population without it. However, single use plastics are wreaking havoc on both our health and the environment. It is made from a limited resource, it does not cycle back into the environment which creates an inordinate amount of waste and damage to wildlife, and the chemicals which make up plastic are now linked to some of our biggest health concerns today.

Children are often interested in issues that affect their health and the planet they will inherit. It is important to engage them on pertinent issues so that they may take ownership of their future. They also demonstrate a strong interest in having an impact on the world while they are still young. We can be inspired by the idealism of youth in solving pressing problems. Art is a fantastic platform on which to explore creative ideas and solutions to problems which affect us all.

Because Plastic fills our lives, it is a very familiar material which is often taken for granted. I aspire to encourage children to consider this very common material in new ways.

I would like to present work which explores both the environmental importance of plastic which endures in a useful form, and contrast it to the environmental catastrophe of single use plastics. It takes a lot of effort to pay attention to how we use the most common materials in our lives. It is important to encourage youth to start paying attention to our daily actions to encourage their understanding of our places in context of the world in which we live. In doing so, they may feel empowered to incorporate small changes in their own lives which would inspire waves of change in the larger spheres of their communities.

As a compliment to the work that I create which would encourage a reconsideration of this common but untraditional material, I would like to design an interactive element where children could build their own art works from found plastic objects that would otherwise be laid to waste. In the hopes that it would inspire a long term ability to repurpose materials, I hope that it offers a shift in perception as to the value of materials that are often overlooked.

Beyond the scope of this particular residency, I would like to take the interactive element into various schools and communities at home and abroad in order to engage children on the subject of plastic. I plan to build an online presence with the work and reflections created by the kids to form a foundation of a visual dialogue around this material which touches us all.