projects: educational + social engagement initiatives

PROJECT VORTEX

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In 2009, I founded Project Vortex, as an effort to help broaden creative stewardship initiatives in art and academic settings. PV is a growing international collective of artists, designers and architects who also work extensively and in an innovative way with plastic debris with the shared aim of supporting conservation initiatives.

Many members, like me, make themselves available to share their techniques for safely working with plastic pollution through workshops, open source curriculum, or teaching artist engagements around the world.

 
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Since 2013, I have engaged with various communities to share some methods for intercepting the waste stream in art through making collaborative color wheels, individual collages and other art object made from glossy paper packaging.

School budgets for art supplies are often slim so sharing techniques to working with excess paper packaging collected by communities from cereal, toothpaste and other items is a resourceful reflective engagement that participants of all ages and backgrounds can access.

This workshop serves as an introduction to working with debris and is suitable for ages ranging from 3rd graders to art teachers and creative professionals.

Packaging material exists in every imaginable color at no cost to us and it typically misrepresents its content making it the ultimate fodder for re-contextualization. To date, I have done packaging workshops of this nature at the Ford Foundation, with students at PS50 in Queens, NY (pictured above left), at The New York State Art Teachers Association Annual Conference, The Iowa Art Teachers Annual Conference, Middletown (NY) High School, Girl Scouts groups, summer camps and with art teachers at The South Carolina Aquarium among other venues.

 
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Since 2012, I’ve been developing techniques for working with plastic and other debris that I’ve been sharing for adaptation in colleges around the planet. This open source curriculum is designed to foster creative stewardship by providing a framework for use in academic settings. As a model, it results in fruitful dialogue and highly charged social engagement at the intersection of art and science. (*For more information see my TEDx talk entitled Trash + Love.)
Initially, students engage in a river or shore clean up by partnering with a local conservation group thus spending time in nature. The clean up is also a hunt for “art supplies” to be used in the creation of a work of art that “can’t be confused with garbage” while meeting the criteria of being made from 99% non - biodegradable bonafide debris.  With an emphasis on craft and quality, the experience gives students the opportunity to be active agents of change. The course culminates with a pop up exhibition in a public cultural venue that is also a silent auction / fundraiser. All proceeds from the sale of the student work goes to support increasing local conservation and ensure future implementation of the course. 

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