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The State Department…who knew?

November 21, 2009

I am still gathering information and images about this event, but it’s time to add something to the blog.

On Monday, November 16, four artists Lisa SchumaierAlison Sigethy, Sondra Arkin, and Veronica Szalus teamed up to create an on-site art installation at the State Department headquarters building using State Department trash.

The project was the kick-off event for “America Recycles Week.” The State Department produces truckloads of trash, daily, and gave the group permission to use it for their project as a way to heighten awareness of how much we throw away and to invite viewers to think more creatively about alternatives.  The artists produced towers of plastic soda bottles and a long snake of crushed aluminum cans for their installation which was on display all that week (photos to come).

During the week, the State Department held other events, including EPA exhibits, a Green Community Speakers Series, and presentations on what happens to your recyclables after they are collected.

Additionally, as part of their closing day festivities on Friday, November 20, they held a Green Art Expo featuring artists who use recycled materials in their work. Eight moreDC-area artists (Jessica Beels, Tamara EmbreyCarol Levin, Rosemary Luckett, Janea MichelleAlicia Roman, Erwin Timmers, and Kathryn Wiley) joined the installation group to show work they do incorporating recycled materials into sculpture and wearable art.  The installation pieces from earlier in the week were on display, as well, and Sondra Arkin and Veronica Szalus continued their on-site demonstration, making sculptures out of chicken wire, spent cartridges from the State Department shooting range, and styrofoam forms – all from the State Department trash stash (images forthcoming).

Other exhibits included vendors who deal with State Department waste explaining how they are greening their processes and State Department employees talking about green initiatives in the U.S. and abroad at State Department facilities.  All in all, quite an impressive showcase for some fairly progressive thinking.  

Pulverized Classified Mail - ready to become egg cartons

The State Department has an office dedicated just to these issues, and they are working to incorporate green technologies and emphasize using greener materials in as many aspects of State Department business as possible – everything from new carpet that uses recycled materials, to efficient waste disposal in which the waste (shredded paper) is reused and turned into things like egg cartons. According to State Department employees I talked to, both Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama have made it clear that greening the government is a priority, so the funds are finally available to make projects like this possible.

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