Southeast Raleigh High students turn plastic bottles into art for Artsplosure

sbarr@newsobserver.comMay 16, 2014 

  • Want to go?

    The city’s 35th annual Artsplosure festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with an art market, children’s activities and musical and dance performances in and around Moore Square in downtown Raleigh. A full listing of events and locations is at raleighartsfestival.com.

— A group of art students at Southeast Raleigh High School added a new medium to their repertoire last week: laundry detergent bottles.

With help from artist David Edgar, the students took empty plastic jugs collected from recycling bins and laundromats and turned them into unique fish sculptures built out of layers of carefully cut plastic.

“You get to use your imagination, so it’s a lot of fun, but it’s challenging because you have limited resources,” said Julio Velazquez, 18, a senior and advanced art student at the school.

The students’ work will be on display during the city’s 35th annual Artsplosure festival, which runs through Sunday. Each year, the festival pairs an artist and school who create an exhibit together.

Terri Dollar, Artsplosure’s program director, said student participation in the festival is a way to encourage young artists along their creative path.

“It says to them, ‘We think you’re an artist. We think what you do matters,’” she said.

At the weekend festival, children also will be able to create jellyfish in the same style as the fish made at Southeast Raleigh.

Edgar’s “Plastiquarium” display features colorful marine creatures of all kinds made from post-consumer recyclable plastics. The displays are fun and whimsical but also can give viewers pause when they consider just how much plastic is floating in the ocean.

In his workshops with students, Edgar discusses concepts such as recycling and reusing, and what happens to the plastic that passes through the world each day.

“I like to stress that we don’t always think about the effects,” he said.

Edgar began working with plastics about a decade ago after many years spent making fabricated steel sculptures.

He stumbled onto his new path shortly after he and his wife moved to North Carolina when Edgar had realized he had no Carolina Panthers gear to wear to a Super Bowl party. He quickly made a mascot mask out of materials he found around the house, and the idea stuck.

After that, he started noticing the colors and shapes of the plastic bottles all around him and delved into his new form. Since then, his work has been shown in galleries and museums around the world.

For the students who got a personal look at Edgar’s process last week, his work sparked plenty of new ideas.

“I thought it was cool to make stuff out of laundry detergent bottles,” said Paige Zielenski, 18, a workshop student. “I never would have thought of that.”

Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah

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