Waterford IT launch incredible plastic-inspired art exhibition

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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news@waterfordlive.ie

Waterford IT launch incredible plastic-inspired art exhibition

Waterford IT launch incredible plastic-inspired art exhibition

Waterford Institute of Technology and Waterford schoolgirls are set to exhibit an exceptional art installation with thought-provoking components made from household plastics at Garter Lane Arts Centre from January 15-19.

Garter Lane Arts Centre in Waterford is the setting for an innovative art exhibition from primary and secondary pupils in Waterford city.

Coordinated by Calmast, Waterford Institute of Technology’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) outreach centre, with support from Creative Ireland (Waterford), girls from Presentation Primary and Presentation Secondary Schools have created an exceptional art exhibition that discusses plastics.

Plastic is a highly topical area – microplastics are in the news on a daily basis, 'single-use' has just been chosen as word of the year and new legislation on the use of plastic is under discussion. Nevertheless plastic has been the material of choice for many years: how did the image of plastic change? What is plastic and how does plastic interact with our environment?

These are the questions that 19 TY students from Presentation Secondary School, Waterford researched for several weeks. They looked at the good, the bad and the ugly of plastics including the issues we're currently facing all around the world and what is being done to recycle, reuse, reduce and replace plastics. They learned about the history and the science of plastics but they don’t stop there: the TY students explained their findings to 60 primary pupils at Presentation Primary School Waterford.

“Learning from and with your older peers is a very valuable way to introduce pupils to a new concept,” says Dr Cordula Weiss, Programme Manager, Calmast.

“Both sides benefit immensely from peer teaching. The process of teaching and learning becomes more interactive and there is increased interaction and understanding between the younger and the older groups who, despite being ‘teacher’ and ‘learners’, still share the common experience of going to school. Under the umbrella of STEMreach a new initiative of Calmast, introducing primary pupils and second-level students to new areas of science through peer teaching, linking with local industry and Calmast being the coordinating central hub. Pupils and students are highly motivated to participate in peer teaching and peer learning, they finish the project with an in-depth understanding of the topic and gain confidence and self-esteem while working together.”

To visualise all aspects of plastics – the good, the bad and the ugly – the girls have been working for months under the supervision of local artist Rachel Smith to create an art installation to be exhibited at Garter Lane Arts Centre. The installation consists of colourful mosaics from plastic toys and bottle tops, imaginative and thought-provoking messages written to their grandchildren, pieces that encourage the visitor to reflect on plastics in our environment and more. Posters and a short video present the scientific facts and give a glimpse into the girls’ work over the past few months.

“It was wonderful to see the creativity of the girls develop over the course of the project, their imagination, ingenuity and insightfulness in this important topic can be seen in the final product. I was delighted to be involved in the project and help them develop their creativity to produce this wonderful thought provoking installation,” Smith, a self-taught artist from Dublin, now based in Tramore, said. She has received several bursary awards from Waterford County Council for her art practices and is a member of the Copper Coast Art Group.

“We are living in a world of plastic pollution,” says Senator Grace O'Sullivan, Green Party. “Every time I walk the beach I find plastic bottle tops, fish netting, and pieces of roping along the tide line. Tiny fragments of plastic are getting into the food chains of all species, including humans. This exhibition by the students at the Presentation Schools Waterford draws our attention to plastics, art, science and the need to find solutions to the problems of plastic pollution.”

“Garter Lane is delighted that this topic can be discussed and learned about through the medium of creative expression,” says Síle Penkert, Executive Director Garter Lane Arts Centre, “And we are very proud to be a host to this exciting exhibition which rightly asks ‘Why Plastic?’ We greatly look forward to welcoming interested visitors, teachers and pupils alike to see the finished works.”

The project receives support from the Creative Ireland (Waterford) Programme Scheme and was developed by Calmast together with Senator Grace O’Sullivan, artist Rachel Smith and the support of the Garter Lane Arts Centre.

The exhibition takes place in the Garter Lane Arts Centre from January 15-19.

Groups and venues interested in hosting the exhibition please contact Dr Cordula Weiss, cweiss@wit.ie