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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Message and photos by Jamie Bruno.
Editor’s Note: The LRWP and coLAB arts are pleased to welcome Jamie Bruno to our work in New Brunswick. Jamie will join us for the next 9 months as our National Endowment for the Arts Resident Artist.
Hello Dear Reader. Happy to be writing to you today.
As the new Resident Artist with the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership my work is to bring people to the river and bring the river to people. Increasing that knowledge and access increases people’s value of a healthy river and watershed. Much of my work will be dedicated to CoLAB Arts and LRWP’s existing programming such as Rail-Arts-River and Trash Troubadour, within which the already incredible experience of cleaning up a stream also becomes an experience in arts and culture.
I live in Newark, NJ. My most recent work has been focused around urban agriculture, food security, food waste management, and organizing for urban agriculture alliance development. I manage a small farmers market for a local nonprofit once a week at a hospital in Newark. My most recent artwork, “And all our dead can live again,” is a functioning geodesic dome that, in many ways, is a reaction to doing urban agriculture and local food development work in a post-industrial inner city.
All Our Dead Can Live Again
As a graduate of Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts, I am already familiar with New Brunswick though I am still orienting to this new position and a changed city. My eyes see the river differently from the scientists, geologists and academics who study it. Slowly I will see more. For now I notice the strange interactions between humans and the human built riverfront. On my first trip re-visiting Boyd Park I see moments of departure in the landscape by an uncooperative nature, consistently unconcerned with our good intentions. And neglect by us, to simply sit and listen to her. I can’t wait to tell you more about that visit.
You don’t know me and I will only be with you, officially, for a short nine months. But within that nine months I hope that we can make sweet, passionate earth caring goodness together. Earth Care. People care. Future care. In the incredibly succinct lyrics of M.I.A.’s song “Meds and Feds”: We just “give a damn,” and, another inspiration, Y.A.L.A. (You Always Live Again as opposed to the formerly popular phrase, Y.O.L.O., You Only Live Once)… Earth karma.
Thank you for reading. If you’d like to see more of my work please visit tothedirt.net
You are cordially invited to join us for our 3rd annual Watershed Sculpture Project Opening at RWJ Fitness & Wellness Center in New Brunswick Tuesday, December 6, 2015 from 7:000 pm- 9:00pm!
Tickets are $25. Enjoy a meet-and-greet with the artists, light refreshments, and more!
To purchase advance tickets. All proceeds benefit the Watershed Sculpture Project.
2016 Watershed Sculpture Project Themes
In Spring 2016 the LRWP and coLAB Arts worked with Sarah Grunstein’s Highland Park High School sculpture class, using interdisciplinary strategies to match in school art and science curricula with Next Generation Science Standards for innovative project based learning. At our gallery opening we will showcase student work.
Also on display will be new commissioned pieces that incorporate the theme of “frames” into sculptures that frame the landscape and can be installed semi permanently along the Raritan River Waterfront at Boyd Park in New Brunswick, and photograph prints from the Raritan River Basin series by No Water No Life‘s Alison M. Jones.
We will discuss the Watershed Sculpture Project in the context of Environmental Health and Community Wellness, focusing on how public art installations along the Raritan River might prompt visitors to interact in more positive ways with New Jersey’s largest major waterway.
About the Watershed Sculpture Project
The Watershed Sculpture Project is the result of a partnership between coLAB Arts and the 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 its 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.
With thanks to Johnson & Johnson, the Highland Park Educational Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Wellness & Fitness Center for their support for this project.
The Original Raritan River Festival was started by Pete Seeger and his fellow environmentalists 35 years ago – this annual event is a full day of family oriented events.
Please plan to join the LRWP and friends on Sunday September 25, 2016 from noon-6 pm in New Brunswick’s Boyd Park for this year’s Raritan River Festival!
Three stages will be running throughout the day, with other activities including the rubber duck race, cardboard canoe race , environmental activities and more. Food, vendors and beer garden on the grounds.
The LRWP and coLAB Arts will showcase sculptures created as part of the third annual “Watershed Sculpture Project.” Activities include hands-on art projects, milkweed seed pod preparation for pollinator gardens and more!
GPS Coordinates: N 40° 29′ 39.9192″, W 74° 26′ 15.9534″
From Route 1 :
• Take Route 18 North
• Pass through the first light at Paulus Boulevard
• STAY TO THE RIGHT after this light Follow signs towards New Brunswick Exits/Route 27
• Continue through two (2) traffic lights (DO NOT TURN AT THE SIGN FOR BOYD PARK)
• Pass under New Street
• Make the first right into the New Brunswick Landing – ENTRANCE IS BEFORE THE EXIT FOR ROUTE 27 NORTH/HIGHLAND PARK
From New Jersey Turnpike:
• Take the NJ Turnpike to Exit 9 (New Brunswick)
• Follow directions for Route 1
Join the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and COLAB ARTS for our 3rd annual Sculpture Project Clean-Up!
WHAT: LRWP and Colab Arts are teaming up Sunday the 11th from 10AM to 1PM to prepare for our 3rd Annual Sculpture project. In order to do so, we need your help to remove trash from streams and tributaries of the Raritan River. This is no ordinary clean-up! Items found will be given to local artists to be made into sculptures that will be displayed in New Brunswick.
WHERE: We will meet at 10AM at 16 Woodbridge Street, New Brunswick and from there head to Mile Run for the clean-up.
Gloves, trash bags and other supplies will be provided.
Contact Heather for more information: hfenyk AT lowerraritanwatershed DOT org
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