The Palmer Museum of Art and The Arboretum at Penn State have received a $30,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to help support the creation and installation of outdoor sculptures at the Arboretum, June–October 2018. The commissioning project will take place in conjunction with a Palmer Museum of Art exhibition, Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials, which will be on display in spring 2018.
Aurora Robson, a multimedia artist known for her transformative work intercepting the waste stream, has been selected to create the outdoor sculptures, which will be made of industrial plastic waste from Penn State and other locations. Robson will also be included in the Palmer exhibition. The exhibition’s curatorial team, which includes Joyce Robinson, curator at the Palmer Museum, Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, associate professor of women’s studies and English, and Heather Davis, post-doctoral fellow at Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, chose Robson because she is a leader among artists working with plastic from the waste stream.
“Aurora is one of the most accomplished artists working with ‘recovered’ plastic in the art world today,” said Robinson. “Her outdoor pieces, particularly her recent work made from intercepted industrial plastic waste gleaned from the very institutions she partners with, will be shown to great effect at the Arboretum and will be able to withstand exposure to the elements.”
According to Kim Steiner, director of the Arboretum, the sculptures will “enrich the aesthetic experience” of the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens. “We appreciate this great opportunity to collaborate with the museum to bring a fine arts focus to the gardens, a concept that is embodied in the Arboretum’s vision,” he said. “We hope that the concept of creating garden art from recycled plastic will inspire a sense of renewal and stewardship."
The Arboretum is planning extensive public programming in conjunction with the sculptures, including workshops, joint tours with Arboretum and Palmer Museum docents, and presentations by regional environmental organizations, such as Shavers Creek Environmental Center.
Shari Edelson, director of horticulture and curator at the Arboretum, said she looks forward to the collaboration and joint programming between the Arboretum and Palmer Museum. “We will be training our volunteer docents with the Palmer docents, and it will be the first time we are providing them with art education training,” she explained.
Following their display at Penn State, Robson’s sculptures will be available to travel in conjunction with the tour of Plastic Entanglements, which will go to three additional venues through the end of 2019.
In addition to the Palmer Museum and Arboretum, co-sponsors include the Penn State Sustainability Institute and Materials Research Institute, with assistance provided by Penn State Solid Waste Operations.
This Art Works category of NEA grants focuses on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts. For more information, visit arts.gov/news.
Image: Aurora Robson looks at a potential location for her sculptures. Photo by Stephanie Swindle.