Each separate segment is suspended using hemp rope from hooks in the ceiling. We were going to use plastic fishing line, but then we realized we needed an alernative..."say no to plastic!"
Thousands of individual plastic pieces hand sewn by Michelle and project volunteers to create a majestic abstract bird flying over nature. A nod to Mass Audubon's mascot tern. PHOTO: Josh Touster
This photo gives a sense of scale of Flotsam as installed in Michelle Lougee's exhibition at the Boston Sculptor's Gallery in 2021.
Visiting children were fascinated by the variety of familiar pieces, recognizable from their own lives.
This detail includes some of the white plastic elements combined to create the body of the bird. You can also see some of the Talismans, small artwork created by passersby at community tables in Central Square in lids. This component was led by teen public artists from the Community Art Center. Photo: Josh Touster
Michelle took this photo of Cecily working on the Tapestry.
People of all ages helped to make the Tapestry at workshops held on Tuesdays and Sundays at the Powder Magazine in May and June.
Volunteers who helped out regularly taught others -- children and adults -- how to attach plastic items to the burlap pieces.
Neighborhood volunteers who took time out from a birthday party to do some crafting.
Junee was one of a group of CRLS students in a science club that adopted the Tapestry Project. They created QR code links to accompany the finished artwork that will inform people about the dangers of plastic pollution.
ON VIEW IN CAMBRIDGE NOW
through 2024 at the Mass Audubon Powder Magazine Nature Center:
MAGAZINE BEACH COMMUNITY TAPESTRY WITH MICHELLE LOUGEE say NO to single use plastic and YES to art, community & nature
In 2022, Cecily Miller and Michelle Lougee teamed up to create a new project for Magazine Beach Park in Cambridge. Taking inspiration from FLOTSAM (third photo on the left) -- Michelle's 2021 mash-up of tapestry and mosaic made of post-consumer waste -- we aimed to create a new community-based work warning of the environmental dangers of single-use plastic.
The finished tapestry was designed to hang in Mass Audubon's new Nature Center in the historic 1818 granite Powder Magazine which gives the park its name. You can watch a short video about the project on Vimeo:
We both live in the Cambridgeport/Riverside area and enjoyed getting to know our neighbors better through this participatory project. Everyone was invited to get involved! Some people donated plastics collected at home or during a walk along the Charles River. Others came to a free workshops and made parts of the tapestry! We counted more than 170 participants of all ages, but are pretty sure there were more, who contributed to this collective collaborative work.
Take a look at our PLASTIC COLLECTION GUIDE. These are the kinds of things we asked for, and it was all too easy for people to collect thousands of items during daily life. We also used items cleaned up from the watershed on Earth Day by volunteers working with the Charles River Conservancy.
We know that individual choices are important, but we all need to work together to demand systemic change. With recycling rates as low as 6%, and impossible for so many plastic materials, we need radical action, including bans on single use plastic wherever possible. Plastic is creeping into everything -- our clothes, our furniture, construction materials, our bodies. Microplastics are in our food, our water, the air we breathe. The fossil fuel industry is powerful, and plastic is their Plan B as we work to transition to renewable energy sources. We aimed to weave tips for reducing plastic and options for action through our project, and welcomed suggestions and participation! If you are interested in getting more involved with this urgent environmental issue, a great place to start is looking at the website of BEYOND PLASTICS and connecting with the local Boston Chapter founded by Eileen Ryan.
MANY THANKS TO OUR PARTNERS!
Many thanks to community partners Magazine Beach Partners, Mass Audubon, Community Art Center's Teen Public Artists, Morse Elementary School's 3rd grade art class and afterschool programs at Mass Audubon, Gallery 263, and the Charles River Conservancy who have helped to bring a spark of an idea to life! And to the new anti-plastic activism group Beyond Plastics Boston, a local chapter of Beyond Plastics. a national organization working to end single use plastic pollution.
Cecily and Michelle first worked together in Arlington, MA where Cecily is the Public Art Curator for the Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture. During Michelle's Artist-in-Residence project, she enlisted 100+ community volunteers to collect thousands of plastic bags and transform them into sculpture. Entitled PERSISTENCE, this large-scale public artwork is currently on view along the Minuteman Bikeway near Spy Pond in Arlington, It carries a message about the dangers of microplastics. Plastic never goes away; it just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces until it is eaten by creatures who mistake it for food or inhaled by creatures who mistake it for clean air – including humans. The sculptural forms were inspired by the microorganisms that plastic impersonates as it pervades our world.
Michelle has been concerned about ocean plastic pollution since learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch 15 years ago and began calling attention to the impact of single use plastic through her varied sculpture and installation work. Art New England had this to say about a recent exhibit:
"Lougee is a magician who transforms discarded materials into extraordinary aesthetic comments on the ecological disasters we're courting. Her captivating forms are inspired by ocean species that are hundreds of millions of years old, more ancient than humans, which are now threatened with extinction by plastic waste...we're reminded of the daily choices we make. Let's hope that our future progeny will not read 'Once upon a time...humans failed to protect...' It all depends on the choices we make." -- B. Amore
We received a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council which has gotten us started! We are also still raising matching money from our community through tax-deductible individual contributions via a GoFundMe Campaign. MORE INFO ON HOW YOU CAN HELP
2022: CALENDAR OF EVENTS & WORKSHOPS
April 23, 1-4: Mass Audubon Open House at Magazine Beach
Come and meet us!
May 3, 7-9 pm: Artist Talk & Mini Workshop
hosted by Gallery 263 (263 Pearl Street)
Learn more and work hands-on! Guest speaker: Eileen Ryan on the plastic crisis and what you can do. REGISTER
May 10, 7-8:30 pm: Free Film Screening
Watch Robin Frohardt's magical film using humor, evocative puppets, and inventive staging to follow a plastic water bottle into a dystopian future (after "the Robot Wars") where it is carefully excavated and misinterpreted to be a precious artifact from a vanished civilization – ours! Followed by an artist talk with Robin and Michelle on art & activism. View in person at Arlington's Regent Theater or live-stream at home. MORE INFO and TICKETS.
Thursday May 19, 7-9 pm: Workshop
hosted by Gallery 263 (263 Pearl Street, Cambridge)
Learn more and work hands-on! REGISTER
Sunday May 22, 1-4 pm: Workshop
hosted by Gallery 263 (263 Pearl Street, Cambridge)
Learn more and work hands-on! Stay the whole time or just stop by for an hour. REGISTER
June: Drop In Crafting Sessions
at the Powder Magazine
We'll work outside if the weather is good, inside if it's rainy
RSVP so we know you are coming! RSVP
Tuesdays, 4 to 6 pm: June 7, 14 and 21
Sundays, 1 to 4 pm: June 5, 12 and 26
Participants were invited to join the newly formed Beyond Plastics Greater Boston for a rally and march on July 20 at the Statehouse, to demand legislative and corporate action. We need to pass Extended Producer Responsibility laws, bottle bills, and plastic bag bans to reduce single use plastic. Meet at 3 pm at the Statehouse; demand legislative and corporate action NOW.
JULY 13, 2022 FINAL CELEBRATION!
Our project wrapped up and we celebrated in style! Everyone was invited to come and see the completed and newly installed Tapestry on display in Mass Audubon's Nature Center in the Powder Magazine, Magazine Beach Park, Cambridgeport. We joined Mass. Audubon's Full Moon Festival of nature and art activities with music by the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble. These fantastic musicians brought a party to the Charles River with New Orleans-style jazz, improvisation, and original compositions on a beautiful summer evening. All activities were free, and picnics were welcome!