ONE ISLAND Study Abroad with Steve Loar
Department of Art, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
In 2008 the concept of One Island – Art as Environmental Remediation, was developed to provide intellectual underpinnings for my first study abroad trip that would investigate sea debris as an art-making material. Public awareness of my students’ artwork made of recyclable plastic, begun in December of 2007, had brought about a serendipitous introduction to Andros Island, Bahamas. As with many seashores it was being blighted by mounting marine debris – primarily plastic. These ruminations brought together several career-spanning passions – student leadership, transferring skills and knowledge, and affecting cultural awareness of waste and pollution. The large goal of One Island became Discover, Document, and Disseminate.
One Island has never been simply about activities, “[One Island] …will document innovations and discoveries made while using discarded plastic refuse, and transfer those skills and knowledge to others, both local artists and then later to a far larger audience via a website and articles. The class will also immerse the students in teamwork, community, and the natural environment; increasing the likelihood of their taking an active leadership role in a future defined by limited resources. In so doing, I will have stretched my skills and sensibilities [and theirs] far beyond my classroom experience into a dynamic new realm.” – Steve Loar
One Island: Cleaning up the Beach 2009
Three weeks on the large but sparsely populated Andros Island, Bahamas was intense in every respect. After cleaning up two mile-long beaches of plastic sea debris, the group worked under a thatched hut in swimsuits. Very romantic. But in 103-degrees with 100% humidity and constant bugs from above and below, “exploring methods for translating plastic into art” was made very demanding. Leisure trips included pristine white beaches and several swimming adventures to the legendary Blue Holes. The culminating experience was taking our artwork across 42 miles of open-ocean while manning a 40’ sailboat, having an exhibition at the HUB gallery in Nassau, presenting a workshop at the local community college, and taking in the city and the huge aquarium at the Atlantis Hotel. Three days with 10 of us living on-board the boat while anchored in the middle of Nassau harbor left us rather pungent but invigorated. (www.iup.edu, “one island”)
One Island: Recycling Scotland 2010
Three weeks is southern Scotland required a commitment to both the art making focus of the course/trip and to the demanding maintenance of a positive and cohesive group spirit for the duration of the trip due to the 24/7 working/living arrangements. Attempts to replicate our American experience of recycled plastic or even the trash-strewn beaches of the Bahamas failed in the face of a nation earnestly committed to recycling. Creativity was seriously stretched in the face of very limited amounts of found rubbish and commercial cast-offs, but we invented and explored several all-new strategies with exciting results. Our trips included Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews, Inverness, Loch Ness, ancient standing stones, the world’s tallest hedge, and an extraordinary visit to Glen Coe during a wild torrential rainstorm. We completed our trip with an exhibition at Perth College, where we had been working. No one will forget Steve’s driving the huge van on “the wrong side of the road” with the left-handed stick shift or our cliff jumping into the North Sea (YouTube, “coasteering–arbroath”, first entry, July 7, 2010)
One Island: Recycling the Beach 2012
Selected IUP Art students will spend two weeks of intense collaboration living and working together in Freeport, Grand Bahama. We will help clean up debris from Grand Bahama Island and its beaches, and learn about the reef and the sea through lectures and active snorkeling. The studio work will explore methods for designing and translating plastic debris into a permanent sculptural reef/seascape installation at the Underwater Explorers Society. We will be getting our up-close & personal ocean lessons and lectures from our traveling companion, marine educator and diver, Deanna LaSusa-Hotchner (www.discoverthedepths.com).
-see documentation of the trips in the Gallery section-