RiPPLe art show
PNCA students and alumni along with Portland area artists come together to make art from materials collected during annual river clean-up.
Paddling down the Clackemette river collecting objects that others have thoughtlessly discarded, is what happens each year at the annual We Love Clean Rivers clean-up. We Love Clean Rivers is an environmental non-profit organization that has been helping clean rivers like the Clackamette for over a decade. Volunteers go out on rafts, canoes, and scuba gear to clean literally tons of junk that has built up on the riverbed. This includes things like metal rebar, aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, tires, and much more. The retrieval of these items helps restore the riverbeds and old growth tree roots.
As part of the event, over the past six years, artists have been making works made of recycled materials found from the clean-up. It began with a few artists, and this past year has turned into a partnership with PNCA. Now, 10 artists, most of whom are PNCA students and alumni, will be showing works made of recycled materials found from the clean-up. The show is called RiPPLe, and it is both an art auction and exhibition, in which half of the proceeds from the auction will go back to the cause for future years of keeping Pacific Northwest rivers clean.
Jordan Bermingham, Associate Director of Residence Life at PNCA, has volunteered in past years and broached the idea of PNCA being involved with the river clean-up efforts. He arranged for PNCA students to participate in the river clean-up by reserving seats for them on rafts.
I am an MFA Collaborative Design alumna and staff member at PNCA with my own creative practice. I saw how this event was aligned with my practice as it integrates the arts into environmental stewardship and education. and took on the role of becoming the Artist Coordinator for We Love Clean Rivers. I corresponded with board members Sam Drevo and Staj Pace of We Love Clean Rivers to gain insight on past artist recruitment efforts, and then reached out to artists in the PNCA community and the Portland area.
Drevo, who helped co-found We Love Clean Rivers, summarized what the non-profit does, “We turn restoration into recreation. Our founding principles are built around boat-based river cleanups and activating the recreation community to support small watershed non-profits and land owners to improve river ecosystems. River cleanup art and outreach is an important element of telling our story, and the RiPPLe art show is our fundamental mechanism. The RiPPLe show has helped us bring the river cleanup story and our outreach to the greater community at large.”
The day of the river clean-up on the Clackamette was bright and sunny, with ducks quacking. The Materials Leader stood by the dumpster with a bright orange vest ready for when the rafts would be coming ashore. The clean-up recycles as much of the collected materials as possible and designates areas for separating plastic, glass, and aluminum. Volunteers stood around for a bit wondering what they would encounter next with the rafts that would be arriving. Finally, the rafts arrived, and the artist volunteers and clean-up volunteers worked together to bring the materials to the dumpster. Artists became excited at the treasures that were being found such as shiny nuts and bolts and deep red rusting chairs. The enthusiasm of the artists was infectious, and the other volunteers began to give artists other materials they found that would be appealing to make art. Art turned collecting old mangled junk into collecting precious potential art supplies. After the clean-up there was a celebratory barbeque with a jovial band. The artists who volunteered that day were cracking jokes about odd materials they found, and there was a contest to see who had found the “grossest” object. Spirits were high, and now it was time to make something from the unearthed materials from the river.
The making process has been as bumpy as the prized rusty rebar found at the river clean-up. Some students met up to begin make pieces together, while others flew solo. Now, it’s time for the auction and exhibition, which will be held on the upcoming First Thursday, on December 4th, 2014 from 6 – 9:00pm at PNCA’s ArtHouse. There will be 10 artists exhibiting work with over 30 pieces available for purchase. These pieces will be hanging sculptures, a large metal fish that’s over three feet long, paintings, and much more.
Jenn Woodard, a Portland artist explains her process, “At the river clean up I saw a good amount of discarded clothing, and this was my inspiration for using clothes to turn into paper for my artwork. Seeing the castoff clothes along the beaches and under bushes made me think about how they came to be there; what is the story behind the person who wore them?” Jordan Schilperoort (BFA ’15) is enthusiastic about future programming in this arena. “I am excited for this program to gain momentum, and I am excited for our show to lend credibility to this aesthetic of ecology and critical appropriation as an art form,” Schilperoort says. Students received the opportunity to be stewards of the land and show alongside other Portland artists. This project started with a small conversation between two PNCA staffers and grew into a collaborative event using the arts as a platform to indicate value of continuing to keep the rivers clean. The art show at ArtHouse will fund future efforts for a cause as precious as clean water.