SOS, art department collaborate for sustainability

After a slow start and scoreless first half, the UW-Eau Claire women’s soccer team came out with a 3-1 win Saturday in its match against Elmhurst College (Ill.). Three goals in the second half brought the Blugolds victory in their last regular season match at Bollinger Fields.

Story by Eric Christenson

What do a paper bag octopus with plastic bottle caps as suction cups, a plastic bag jellyfish and bats with Target bags for wings all have in common?

This isn’t a poorly worded jokebook gag; all of those things are made out of recycled materials and they can all be found in Davies Center on display.

In a collaboration between the Student Office of Sustainability and the UW-Eau Claire art department, three ART 110: 3-D Foundation classes took the task of creating microorganisms, insects and deep sea creatures out of 100 percent recycled plastics, cardboard and paper.

The project was headed by Amy Zagar, sustainability intern for the SOS, who organized many of the events related to Recyclemania, a month-long friendly competition between different university recycling programs to promote waste reduction on different campuses.

Two weeks before the start of the semester, Zagar approached Assistant Professor of Sculpture Jason Lanka about getting some classes to collaborate with the SOS for some Recyclemania events and she said she expected him to decline because of time constraints.

To her surprise, however, Lanka agreed.

“He was really excited about it and gave me some ideas of who to talk to about it,” Zagar said.  “It kind of fell together.”

Zagar then contacted Facilities to gather materials the university was recycling and with a group of volunteers, cleaned and sanitized the materials before turning them over to Lanka and his students.  Out of the three classes, 15 projects came from groups of three students each.

Lanka said the project works on two levels: art and sustainability.

“As far as art is concerned, what we were really trying to push for is how hard it is to create realism and make something look like something else,” Lanka said. “As far as sustainability is concerned, really getting students to think about the timeline.  Where our material comes from, where it goes, what we do with the material.”

Lanka said the recycled materials aren’t difficult to work with; the most difficult part is sustaining disbelief that the sculptures look real despite being made out plastic bags and cardboard.

He said the goal of the project is to help anyone who sees the sculptures to become more mindful of waste.

“(The sculptures) can get a student or a faculty member to just stop and take a moment to appreciate what was done with these materials, but in that appreciation become aware of just how much cardboard they use everyday and how much plastic they use everyday.” Lanka said.

Zagar echoed that sentiment and said the key to creating a truly sustainable campus is by working and collaborating with other departments and programs.

“I guess the take home message is to be more conscientious of the waste in general that we each produce,” Zagar said. “Whether it’s recyclable, compostable or trash, just be mindful of how much we use.”