Living Green: CSUMB students take part in waste district’s new Artist-in-Residence program
That’s something you don’t see every day.
On Thursday, the Last Chance Mercantile at Monterey Regional Waste Management District in Marina opened a truly unique show of art created by three graduating seniors from CSU Monterey Bay. Their large-scale pieces are created from items they’ve recovered from the mercantile as well as from the district’s Materials Recovery Facility.
Visual and Public Art students Alberto Araujo, Jessica Lara and Ben Ward have been working for a year on their pieces and have been at the waste district since January, where they have a studio on site and access to gather and scavenge what they need. This, too, has given them the chance to see and be seen by people who use the landfill’s facilities.
“It’s been really exciting to see the progression of their work,” said the district’s public education and outreach specialist, Angela Goebel.
Taking discarded pieces and using them again is an old idea, but to transform these castoffs into works of art takes upcycling to a whole new level.
This new Artist-in-Residence program, a collaborative partnership between the district and CSUMB’s Visual and Public Art program, has been in the works for more than a year, according to CSUMB assistant professor Dio Mendoza. It’s the only one of its kind in the California State University system, and plans are for it to be offered each year to VPA fourth-year students.
Mendoza said putting these installations inside the Last Chance is a way to extend the art’s reach.
“While installing their pieces, the students have been able to interact with the public, and many of them are people who wouldn’t go to a regular museum,” said Mendoza, who notes that this is the students’ capstone project for graduation.
The concepts behind the art are just as fascinating as the way the pieces are being made.
For his large-scale installation on the power of sleep and dreams, Araujo interviewed customers and staff at Last Chance, and used discarded wood, closet doors, obsolete electronic equipment and a bed in his work.
Lara’s installation is an homage to her family, with the materials giving subtle clues to their histories. A mixed-media portrait of her father uses refurbished wood, a reference to the wooden house he built that was Lara’s childhood home.
For Ward, the concept of humans’ impact on the environment shows itself in his stylized representation of a tree, using repurposed lumber for the trunk and limbs, and rubber from an old raft for leaves.
“As a Visual and Public Art student, I am thrilled at the idea of being able to create art out of ‘trash’ and show the community that some of the things that they discard have far more artistic potential than they may have thought,” Ward wrote in his artist’s statement. “This can bring light to the problem of excessive waste in the United States and the rest of the world.”