"PERSISTENCE" : a community's public art response to pervasive plastic pollution

PERSISTENCE: a community-based public art project responding to pervasive plastic pollution, created by fiber artist Michelle Lougee with more than 100 volunteers and 20 collaborating organizations.
By: Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture (ACAC)
ARLINGTON, Mass. - Dec. 7, 2020 - PRLog -- People across the globe produce over 300 million tons of plastic a year. Half of this plastic is used only once and then heads for the world's oceans. Over the last year, the community of Arlington (MA) succeeded in diverting a portion of this deadly waste, transforming thousands of plastic bags into an innovative and beautiful public art project with an environmental message. Led by Arlington's first Artist-in-Residence Michelle Lougee, and entitled Persistence, this installation is the latest and largest commission for Pathways, a four-year old initiative organized by the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture (ACAC) to bring public art to the Minuteman Bikeway in the Town's Cultural District.

Michelle Lougee thinks about plastic, and not just on occasion. In fact, the Cambridge-based fiber artist and sculptor is obsessed by it, struck that its very existence has inflicted so much permanent harm on our natural environment.

This has led Lougee to develop techniques calling out plastic pollution. She cuts plastic bags into "plarn" – plastic yarn – and uses simple crochet techniques to create intricate and eye-catching sculpture influenced by forms found in nature – seed pods, nests and ocean creatures. For this Arlington project, which is installed near scenic Spy Pond, Lougee was inspired by the microorganisms found in a single drop of water.

Lougee typically makes her sculpture alone and exhibits in gallery spaces. Arlington's Public Art Curator, Cecily Miller, conceived of a plan to bring Lougee to the Town for ACAC's first Artist-in-Residence project. By enlisting community volunteers as collaborators, Lougee would be able to scale up her work and take over a section of the Minuteman Bikeway, one of the most heavily used public spaces in the Town.

Then, in mid-March, that momentum ground to a halt with the pandemic.

Lougee and Miller began to recalibrate. Ultimately, despite COVID-19, more than 100 participants collected thousands of plastic bags, sorted them by color and weight, cut them into skeins of plarn, and crocheted 600 components. Lougee assembled these smaller shapes into 37 unique sculptures; on view for one year, suspended from trees, the colorful forms vary in size and shape with the largest being six feet in length.

Persistence is on view through October 31, 2021. Further information, as well as the back story to persist in spite of pandemic drawbacks: ArtsArlington.org/Persistence (http://www.ArtsArlington.org/Persistence), artsarlington.org/artist-in-residence/artist-in-residence-blog/. Information on artist Michelle Lougee: mlougee.com (https://www.mlougee.com/).

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