Plarn Art: It Takes A Village
March Project News!
Photos 1&2: Roasted Granola exhibitions curator Nayda Cuevas helped Michelle install her colorful sculpture – made by crocheting plastic bags – along one brick wall. Many thanks to the Roasted Granola Cafe for hosting our exhibition and workshops; the workshops are postponed until it is safe to gather again. Photo 3: The Cafe is co-owned by sisters Emily Patel and Sarah Short (left and center). Curator and artist Nayda Cuevas is responsible for the Cafe’s great art exhibitions (second from left). On the right are artist-in-residence Michelle Lougee and ACAC curator Cecily Miller. Photo 4: Rachel Olivieri, coordinator of the Green Team activities for Arlington Public Schools, has welcomed us into the Thompson and Ottoson Schools; here she is with a giant ball of plarn made by the youth environmental activists in her afterschool clubs. Photo 5&6: The Art Club students and Green Team students met together to hear Michelle’s workshop presentation. They were excited to meet a visiting artist and make art with an strong environmental message: stop plastic from polluting our planet! Photo 7: Artist and volunteer mentor Kimberley Harding showed students how to make plarn and crochet. One student focused on cutting up grey bags that she could use for the component that Kimberley has been making for the final sculpture. Photo 8: Many thanks to the Ottoson School art teachers Polly Ford and Kayla McKenna for welcoming Michelle into their weekly Art Club. We hope to return to work with all these great youth environmental leaders and artists in the spring when school reopens.
The Latest, Heading into March!
February Project News
While I've been away traveling in Australia, Arlington craftivists have been busy! On February 1, 35 people came to the Fox Library, joining Michelle and volunteers Lorri Berenberg, Laurie Bogdan, Brucie Moulton and Recycling Coordinator Charlotte Milan for our workshop co-sponsored by ArtLinks and Sustainable Arlington at the Fox. Art and activism mixed as we heard short presentations about waste reduction and climate change along with learning how to transform plastic bags into public art for the Minuteman Bikeway!
A group of interested seniors met at the Council on Aging with Michelle and ACAC commissioners Adria Arch and Kimberley Harding; they heard more about Michelle's work and learned how to make plarn and crochet some of the elements needed for Michelle's final sculptures. We're counting on them to scale up our project! This brings the number of adults who have been introduced to Michelle's techniques to over 80 – we hope to hit 100 in March!
Michelle has a great installation of her sculpture up in the Fox Library; if you haven't already, please stop by and see it. The Arlington Cub Scouts will be coming to learn about it, meet Michelle, and make plarn on a March 14 field trip.
We've also collected hundreds of plastic bags thanks to collection boxes at Robbins and Fox Libraries and the DPW as well as Arlington Public School Green Team student activists.
Michelle visited 4 art classes at the Thompson School as part of an initiative to teach kids about the impact of ocean plastics and climate change; Niels Berger, Arlington artist, Thompson parent, and Extinction Rebellion activist has also been visiting and showing students how to make prints of whales and other endangered ocean creatures. The school and its active Green Team organizes a science day with parent participation; this year the February 29 Thompson School Science "Explo" will feature a giant inflated sculpture of a whale visiting from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency) to teach our (almost coastal) community about ocean creatures and ocean health, and how we can help. We'll be there with a plarn making table and some of Michelle's sculpture to increase awareness of the dangers of ocean plastic.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE – MANY THANKS
So many people and organizations are coming together to make this project possible! Many thanks to our crew of Volunteer Mentors who are helping beginners get the hang of how to crochet and to our generous supporters: the Friends of the Fox Library, the Mass Cultural Council, and now the Thompson School PTO for making these activities possible! Thanks also to our partners for their support in February: Sustainable Arlington, Arlington Public School Green Teams and Thompson School, and Arlington DPW, plus the amazing FOX LIBRARY and Amanda Troha, Branch Librarian!
February News on the Artist-in-Residence Project
"Ubiquitous" on Display at the Fox
Lots of exciting news from our Artist-in-Residence Project with Michelle Lougee! You can see “Ubiquitous” – an installation of Michelle’s sculpture on view at the Fox Library thanks to a grant from the Friends of the Fox (who have also generously underwritten library workshops). In February and March, Arlington Cub Scouts will visit the Fox to see this artwork, meet Michelle, and make plarn.
February Workshop and School Science Explo
Michelle will give a workshop at the Council on Aging on February 11, and visit 4th and 5th grade art classes at the Thompson School. Perhaps most exciting of all, we are participating in the Thompson School’s Science Explo on February 29, 1 to 4 pm. The Explo will feature a giant life-sized inflated humpback whale visiting from Washington DC’s NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). A tour inside this whale is a highlight of NOAA’s community education activities, along with stories of whales’ crucial habitat in Stellwagen Banks Marine Sanctuary at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. Stop by our plarning table, and learn more from NOAA about ocean ecology and preserving the health of sea creatures large and small. Banning single-use plastic is a crucial strategy for protecting whales and wildlife, but there are other things you can do!
Artist-in-Residence Project to hold free workshops January 4 and February 1
“I know what we should call it…” said project advisor and Arlington Recycling Coordinator Charlotte Milan. “Plarn Art to Save the Planet!” And this phrase perfectly captures the intent of the ACAC’s first artist-in-residence project: to combine environmental activism and public art for the public good. Fiber artist Michelle Lougee will lead the community in making a large-scale installation for the Minuteman Bikeway. And the material is…crocheted single-use plastic bags! Insidious, destructive, and pervasive bags will be transformed into art with an underlying message: protect the environment, wildlife, and people by banning unnecessary plastic.
“We have had a such great response to our January 4 workshop (1:30-4:30) at the Fox Library that we have added another on February 1 from 10 am to noon” said ACAC curator Cecily Miller. “Winter seems like the perfect time of year to gather and create in this cozy neighborhood library.”
Workshops include a slide talk by Michelle about her work as well as demonstrations of how to cut up plastic bags into “plarn” and how to make some of the components that will be combined into finished sculpture. More casual Meet-Ups on January 25 and February 22 will provide a forum to get tips and feedback, take on new assignments, and show off work.
“Whether you are a beginner or an expert, we hope to enlist your help,” said curator and arts activist Lorri Berenberg, also a project advisor. “There is a role for everyone, and broad participation will mean we can build a bigger installation with more impact.” The project builds on the success of Ripple, a yarn-storming installation led by Adria Arch and created by the Arlington Knitting Brigade. Several Brigade members have volunteered to serve as mentors for people new to crocheting, including Janet Peluso, Katrina Bernstein-Lewicke, Nora Mann, Stephanie Mckay, Marina Straus, Betsy Beninger, and Holly Lebowitz-Rossi.
Arlington gave a warm welcome to Michelle Lougee at a December 9 reception generously hosted by the Robbins Library. “The kickoff event was energizing and inspiring, with over 75 people in attendance!” Michelle Lougee reported. “It was wonderful to meet so many people excited to participate, and to hear updates on the serious recycling initiatives in Arlington. Plus we enjoyed original songs by 5th grader Judah Almond – all with an environmental theme! I am delighted to be engaging with THIS community and look forward to productive collaboration in the months ahead.”
This Artist-in-Residence project is funded in part by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, and the Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture’s Grant Committee, a local agency supported by the Mass. Cultural Council.
Artist-in-Residence Featured on ACMi’s ‘Talk of the Town’
Arlington Community Media Inc. host James Milan invited ACAC's public art curator Cecily Miller and artist Michelle Lougee onto “Talk of the Town” to discuss ACAC’s exciting new Artist-in-Residence project. Designed to engage the whole community in creating the next public artwork for the Minuteman Bikeway, the Residency is part of PATHWAYS, a program that brings art to one of the busiest public spaces in the Cultural District. (Fun Fact: more than 320,000 Trips were counted on the Minuteman Bikeway from July to October, 2019)
Milan interviewed Lougee about her career and motivation as an artist as well as how her techniques – transforming trash into art – connect with environmental activism. Lougee began incorporating plastic into her work 15 years ago, when she heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and how plastic threatens the health of the oceans. While she aims to create something beautiful, she also hopes to raise awareness about the dangers of single-use plastic and encourage its elimination. To support this goal, Miller is enlisting help from many community partners whose mission is to protect the environment.
During the Residency, Lougee will lead free workshops and meet-ups at the Fox Library and other locations; everyone is invited to learn how to crochet with plastic yarn and contribute to the final sculpture. Miller also explained how this “craftivist” project builds on the installation of colorful sleeves that Adria Arch and the Arlington Knitting Brigade created for 12 trees along the Bikeway in 2017.
Watch the program and learn more about this exciting new project to create art with an environmental message for our public spaces. You can join in by attending a workshop, or by emailing the organizers for directions for making your own “plarn” contributions!
Kick Off Reception
Please join us on Monday, December 9, 7-9 pm at the Robbins Library Community Room for a festive reception to welcome Michelle Lougee to Arlington. In addition to hearing more about Michelle's work and plans for her Artist-in-Residence projects, we'll hear from Green Teams and Zero Waste Committee anti-plastic activists and live music from 5th grader Judah Almond.
SAVE THE DATE: December 9: Meet Our New Artist-In-Residence
To kick off the residency, there will be a reception on Monday, December 9, from 7 to 9 pm hosted by the Robbins Library, one of the PATHWAYS project partners. The public is welcome to meet Michelle Lougee, see some of her work, and hear more about plans for free public workshops, where participants can learn her techniques and help make sculpture for the ACAC’s PATHWAYS initiative. Lougee crochets her inventive shapes from “plarn” – yarn made of slices of plastic bags. Please bring your own bags to donate to the project, especially newspaper subscription delivery bags.
Please contact Cecily Miller for more information or to sign up for workshops.
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ACAC Awarded Grant for PATHWAYS Expansion
The ACAC has received a $2,500 grant from the Mass. Cultural Council to bring Michelle Lougee to town as Arlington’s first PATHWAYS artist-in-residence for a year-long collaborative public art project. Lougee is well known in the Boston area for her colorful sculpture, crocheted from recycled plastic bags and inspired by sea creatures, seed pods, and microscopic life forms.
Lougee normally works alone to execute her carefully crafted sculpture. Her goal in Arlington is to invite community members to help her create a larger scale artwork that will send a message about the power of a community coming together to reduce plastic and protect wildlife and the environment. Arlington has been pro-active in environmental efforts, banning plastic bags from retail sales and reducing plastics in school lunchrooms. The ACAC and its Public Art Curator, Cecily Miller, hope that Arlington residents of all ages will participate in this creative project that will carry an environmental message into one of the Town’s busiest spaces – the Minuteman Bikeway – where thousands will see it every day.