Sustainability Sculptures

July 16, 2016

Five works of art motivate discussion of environmental issues

When Edward Tajchman rolled out his sculpture from the Arts and Technology Building, people paused. They gawked. What they did next surprised its creator.

“As soon as we wheeled it out, people started smiling. I didn’t expect that at all,” he said.

Tajchman is one of five Sculpture II students at Johnson County Community College whose designs were accepted for the third student sustainability sculpture installation. The sculptures are intended to reflect sustainability issues.

Leading a conversation

In partnership with the Center for Sustainability and the fine arts department at JCCC, the program invites artists to submit drawings or models of their ideas.

A committee chooses five to fund to their completion. Money comes from the Sustainability Initiatives Fund to which all JCCC students contribute $1 per credit hour.

This year’s pieces are all made from recycled materials. Metal, plastic, paper and glass that normally might have ended up as campus waste is now a work of art.

Jay Antle, director of the Center for Sustainability, said the artworks create “a conversation through the arts” about sustainability. Lectures, articles and events can spread the word, but they run the risk of sounding too serious and preachy, he said.

“Integrating the arts, and the performing arts, is a way of expanding that conversation,” he said. “It’s fun, but beyond that, it allows us to talk about sustainability issues in a different way.”

Inspiration from garbage

Tajchman said he got the idea for his sculpture from listening to National Public Radio. “It was a story on the Pacific Ocean garbage patch, where trash just collects in this one area of the ocean.”

He heard about how the plastic in that enormous pile is, according to NPR, “pulverized by ocean waves, and then eaten by ocean creatures that larger fish eat.” The plastic is having a far-reaching effect on the ocean’s food chain, which includes humans at the top.

To create the sculpture, Tajchman used leftover steel to weld the body of a large fish, and then he added ferocious-looking teeth in its open mouth. “It looks just prehistoric,” the artist said.

He lucked out when a classmate decided he didn’t need a plastic sign thrown out by the Tsunami Sushi outlet on the JCCC campus. “I like the word ‘tsunami’ and the ties to the ocean,” Tajchman said. Then there’s the irony of using a plastic sushi sign to create a fish sculpture inspired by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch…

Where to find the winners

Sculptures this year include:

  • “Five Mast Viewing Device” by Alex Anderson. Located on the east side of the campus farm.
  • “Economy” by Laura Averill. Located on the south side of the Regnier Center.
  • “Ply Alive” by Kyle Kemper. Located in the outdoor stairwell between GEB and Commons.
  •  “Choices” by Megan Strohl. Located on the hill behind the CSB to the north.
  •  “ZooPlastic Angler” by Edward Tajchman. Located between the LIB and OCB.
Sculptures from previous years are still on campus, too. “Used Woman” by Amy Enochs sits in the Commons Courtyard (the form holding the mirror), and “Squandering Titans._._.” is affixed to the northwest side of the Parking Garage at Galileo Gardens (the letters S-T-O-P filled with discarded paper).