By Arianna Illa, Coordinator, Civic Engagement and Experiential Learning, Middlesex County College
The Watershed Sculpture Project: Middlesex County College
On Tuesday, November 21st of last year, students enrolled in Integrated Reading and Writing (ENG 096) at Middlesex County College (MCC) did something unusual for a typical college course. Rather than meeting in their classroom, they boarded a college van to travel to the Fox Road underpass, a stretch of road off the highway in Edison, NJ. This class excursion was the culminating event following a semester focused on reading, writing, discussing, and learning about environmental issues faced by local communities. In collaboration with the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP) and the Edison Environmental Commission, students planned and executed a community cleanup service project as part of the greater service learning initiative happening at the College.
Students Jessica Colon or Rahway (left) places trash in the bag held by Carolyn Muncibay of Old Bridge.
The cleanup involved spending 3 hours of class time bagging trash and recyclables along the underpass. The location of the cleanup was especially significant as it is uphill from the Raritan River. When it rains, trash and other contaminants travel downhill, further polluting the already vulnerable river. By the end of the cleanup, 17 bags of trash and recyclables, nine tires, a suitcase, car seats, as well as other large trash items were collected.
John Keller, Director of Education and Outreach of CoLAB Arts, assists students during the hand sculpture creation process.
During the cleanup, students selected one small trash item to bring back to campus. In collaboration with local arts advocacy organization CoLAB Arts, students created cement hand sculptures which are now on display in the MCC College Center in an exhibition titled The Watershed Sculpture Project: Middlesex County College. Each sculpture is of a student’s hand holding the trash item they saved from the cleanup.
The display demonstrates the large impact seemingly “small” amounts of littering can have on the environment as a whole, and likewise demonstrates the power of simple acts of stewardship (including stream clean-ups and socially engaged art) to effect positive environmental change. This work seeks to raise awareness of issues of environmental damage happening in the local community, and to prompts viewers to examine and reflect on their own relationship and interactions with the environment.
If your non-profit organization is interested in getting involved with service learning at MCC, please contact Arianna Illa, Coordinator of Civic Engagement and Experiential Learning, at email@example.com.
Thank you volunteers!!
It was a gloomy, rainy Saturday, but on May 12, more than 150 people joined the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Greater Brunswick Charter School, Esperanza Neighborhood Partnership, Friends of Mile Run Brook and Elmwood Cemetery for a multi-site community clean-up and celebration of New Brunswick’s Mile Run Brook.
Friends of Mile Run Brook
The clean-up was enlivened by our roving “Trash Troubadour” – Dave Seamon – who engaged our volunteers with song and stories as they cleaned-up the stream. Our Trash Troubadour traveled with a large sculptural bread-and-puppets style bottle (made from trash found during prior clean-ups) that clean-up volunteers covered with messages of environmental hope.
The clean-up was followed by a free community celebration and picnic in New Brunswick’s Boyd Park – with delicious contributions of dishes donated by Panico’s Brick Oven Pizza, La Poncena, Harvest Moon, Pizza Mia and Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen.
At the end of the clean-up we joined together for a picnic and celebration, the Trash Troubadour created and performed a new song from the messages received.
Filmmaker Jessica Dotson is working on a music video story of the day – a gift for our Mile Run Brook and New Brunswick Community. But for now, click on the photo of our Trash Troubadour to enjoy a youtube video of his riverside performance:
With tremendous thanks to New Brunswick Department of Public Works, North Brunswick Department of Public Works and Rob Hughes, our Americorps Watershed Ambassador for helping with planning, coordination, supplies provision and arranging for disposal of the trash and recycling. Thanks also to the Highland Park Ecology and Environmental Group and Central Jersey Stream Team for bringing your muscle to the clean-up for the day!
Trash Collected at the Hamilton Street Site
Esperanza Neighborhood Project Volunteers!!
The Elmwood Cemetery volunteers (coordinated by the New Brunswick Environmental Commission), removed 14 bags of trash and 6 bags of recycling.
The Greater Brunswick Charter School removed approximately 1,275 pounds of trash and 720 pounds of recycling.
The Esperanza Group removed an estimated 875 pounds of trash and 390 pounds of recycling.
The Friends of the Mile Run removed about 400 pounds of trash and 210 pounds of recycling.
In addition, 20 bulk items and 6 tires were removed as well.
Collectively volunteers removed approximately 2 tons of litter and bulk items from Mile Run Brook!
Call for Proposals
coLAB Arts and the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership are seeking submissions for proposals for new works of found object sculpture using items of trash collected from the Lower Raritan Watershed (The Raritan River and its tributaries).
What is the Watershed Sculpture Project?
This project is the result of a partnership between coLAB Arts and the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP). Our organizations seek to create awareness of the maturing visual arts scene in the Lower Raritan Watershed as well as the need for community involvement to restore local environmental health. coLAB Arts and LRWP coordinate volunteer clean-ups of area streams and from the refuse collected we identify objects to give to commissioned artists who then create original sculptures for public display.
2016 Commission Theme
In 2016 The Watershed Sculpture Project will work with the theme of “Frames.” We ask that all proposals incorporate this idea literally in the creation of a sculpture that frames the landscape and can be installed semi permanently along the Raritan River Waterfront at Boyd Park in New Brunswick. Additionally, we hope the work “frames” a conversation on how viewers can interact in more positive ways with New Jersey’s largest major waterway.
Sample image of framing landscape concept
2016 Commission Fee
Examples of previous year’s materials may be found here: http://www.colab-arts.org/watershedsculptureproject/ Materials sourced have included, plastic bottles, shopping carts, wood, children’s toys, broken ceramics and glass, etc. coLAB Arts and LRWP have stockpiled a small collection of usable materials from previous clean-ups but will also organize a 2016 clean-up toward the end of August 2016 based on interest from selected artists. Because of project goals we ask that artists be cognizant of making their projects entirely or almost entirely of collected clean-up items. In addition, we ask artists to consider not using toxic adhesives or paints.
September 25 – Raritan River Festival, Boyd Park
October 1 – “Watershed Moment” event Boyd Park
Winter – Fall 2017 Watershed Gallery, Wellness Plaza, New Brunswick
All sculptures will be displayed for two major events one week apart in Boyd Park in New Brunswick. Final sculptures should be constructed to survive in the park semi-permanently during the fall months. All work will then also have a year-long display at our permanent lobby-style gallery space in the Wellness Center Plaza in New Brunswick.
Boyd Park Waterfront in New Brunswick, NJ
Please submit a simple proposal idea by August 15 2016 to:
Director of Education and Outreach
Curator, Watershed Sculpture Project
(732) 718 – 7614