The city of Camden, NJ recently celebrated Earth Day by unveiling its latest environmental initiative, “A New View.” This innovative public art project will transform sites around the city plagued by illegal dumping into interactive, dynamic art spaces. For six months, New Jersey residents can visit six exceptional outdoor installations located along some of Camden’s major transit corridors. Each exhibit aims to educate visitors of all ages on the negative effects unauthorized dumping has on the environment.
Cleaning Up Camden
For Camden, illegal dumping has become a major issue in recent years. Throughout the city, growing dumpsites have emerged that are filled with household and industrial waste. Mountains of old Christmas trees, kitchen and bathroom appliances, and even debris from housing constructions littered outdoor spaces. The matter became so out of hand that the city was spending more than $4 million a year to clean up these illicit landfills. City officials and residents alike were finally fed up; they recognized the importance of clearing out these hazardous junkyards for good, and A New View was their solution.
In 2018, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced its annual Public Art Challenge, a program that encourages cities to develop creative solutions to significant urban issues. The organization invited mayors of cities with 30,000 residents or more to submit proposals for temporary public art projects that address important civic problems. If chosen, select cities would receive up to $1 million each to execute their desired art installations. Mayor Frank Moran took this opportunity to propose A New View with the help of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership and the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts.
More than 200 cities applied for these grants, but only five were selected—Camden was the fifth and final winner. With the funding secured, the A New View project team began to accept artist applications. With more than 130 prospective creators around the country to choose from, it was no easy task narrowing down their applicant pool. Last January, the project’s curators announced the names of the eight artists who would be participating in the exhibition.
“A New View” Camden Artists & Creations
Artists from across the country have been working for more than a year to create and install these impactful outdoor exhibits. From vast sculptures to interactive composting machines, each creator took a unique approach when addressing the issue of illegal dumping. Most incorporated recycled or environmentally-friendly materials into their masterpieces to demonstrate the importance of sustainability.
For instance, the team at DKLA Design welded together a monumental panther they’ve thoughtfully called the Invincible Cat. The statue is made entirely from repurposed black and yellow car hoods found within junkyards. Rather than take up space in an illegal dumpsite, these commonly scrapped materials are given a new life. The DKLA Design team notoriously makes elaborate animal-like statues from discarded car parts; most recently, they constructed a 35-foot-tall polar bear that is currently touring internationally.
Art as Environmental Activism
Not far from Invincible Cat is The Bioinformatic Digester, a machine that utilizes mealworms to eat pesky styrofoam packaging. Styrofoam is by no means a sustainable or biodegradable material, yet every day, Americans continue to use the substance. But the team at Terreform ONE has found a green way of reducing this waste. Within the glass display at the base, visitors of The Bioinformatic Digester can watch as the insects devour community-donated styrofoam. The project demonstrates a new method of biologically-driven recycling that allows the community to see waste, energy, and water systems in flux.
Across the river by the East State Street Bridge stands Mechan 11, also known as The Collector. Tyler FuQua Creations, a creative group from Portland, Oregon, brought this 15-foot tall creature to life. Mechan 11 is a steel robot who picks up giant pieces of litter. To create his unique glowing heart chamber, Tyler FuQua Creations asked local high school students from Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy to submit designs. The design and its interpretation serve as a reminder that everyone should love and take care of the planet because it is the only one we have.
Additional programming and events will launch in tandem with the project and continue through October.
To learn more about A New View and its role in abating illegal dumping in Camden, visit their website.
Main image of “Turntable” by Ken Hohing