Friday, December 19, 2008

Muralists and Wastewater

Many muralists are environmentalists. We understand that we are creating works that impact our cultural environment. We are also impacting the air and water where we create work with our materials. My average mural produces 2.5 gallons of solid waste (paint skins) and 20 gallons of liquid waste (water to clean brushes). I’ve worked on projects where artists simply dump their paint water into the sink, usually a janitors closet. Where does this waste end up? In a wastewater treatment facility, that you could probably sniff out in your area, unless you live in Arcata CA or other visionary places that have advanced systems.

For several years I’ve been experimenting with ways to safely dispose of wastewater. The idea is that before we dump our paint water we can put it through a hand made filter with sand and ground charcoal. While this filter doesn’t remove all the toxins from the water, there is a noticeable difference in the color and odor of the water. There are a number of commercially available filtration systems, that are advisable if you are using oil paints, or large amounts of acrylics. Fortunate for printers there are now entire lines of nontoxic organic printing pigments.

Unused paint skins and paints can be taken to a hazardous waste facility. From there at least there will be some degree of remediation. I’ve done some experimenting with dissolving acrylic paints into water over a period of time to try and restore them. To some degree this can be successful, especially with large amount of paints that are still a little crumbly. The pollution caused by our trade takes place in the production, use and disposal of paints, varnishes, gels and other assorted goodies. Hats off to Golden paints for being socially responsible, and for their advanced wastewater treatment facilities.

So if your looking for a place to safely dispose of your toxic art supplies here are some links to Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Centers

San Francisco

Here is a challenge, and eye opener for you, on your next mural project do a carbon count. You can calculate the impact of your project and then make a list of things you need to do to offset the pollution you have created.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

National Green Arts Corps

There is so much to report on in the community mural world. Every week I get an email or phone call regarding a new project or program that seeks to employ the visual arts in healing and mending the word in some way. Here are some highlights.

A project by Rima Malallah called Mural Mural on the Wall has transformed the streets of Amman Jordan.
Last May in Indianapolis Eli Lilly employees painted a 1,230 foot long mural designed by artist Patrick Viles. Get out your tape measures - this is now considered the world's largest paint-by-number mural. This project illustrates a growing trend in service and art related projects.

The National Campaign to Hire Artists to Work in Schools has started a facebook page.
You can read more about this exciting national organizing initiative on APInews.

Kiff Gallagher has put together the Music National Service Initiative. Their site is hosting a conversation entitled “Who Wants an Artist Corps”. You can participate in the conversation here.

Consensus seems to be building for a national work program that includes the arts in a Federal One /WPA/CETA type project. How about developing a program that integrates artists and cultural workers into a Green Jobs and Growth stimulus package? Our future lies in developing programs that are specific to bioregional culture. The ideal National Artists Corps would be one that embodies the idealism of the Obama era, one that funds grassroots and neighborhood based organizations and artists and takes Cultural Democracy into consideration. In this model artists work with Green Job Training Centers to identify areas for innovation and collaboration in all areas of the arts.

The possibilities are endless, and artists have this unique opportunity to advocate for a program that recognizes their unique creative sensibilities and skills.

Your homework tonight: Dream up your most amazing, empowering green participatory arts project that will help revitalize the economy.