High Art Fridays Connects by Recycling Plastic Waste Into Art

HAF Connects: The Sustainable Art of Plastics began in 2019 under the auspices of the Urban Bright Art Residency at Art House, Inc. Ron Shelton, artist and publisher of the online arts magazine High Art Fridays (HAF), engaged 23 energetic third graders about how plastics are invading our culture, our environment, and our lives. The theme of this project was centered around a 24-inch tall, hand-built wire cone frame with an approximately 9-inch diameter. Each of the students built a frame, then embellished it with everyday household items made of plastics. The pile of plastics that covered the classroom floor came in a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures; the students decorated each of their cones into what later became known as “Art Hats.” This project eloquently portrays how plastic is wreaking havoc across our planet.

With the support of both the Cleveland Foundation’s Minority Arts and Education Fund (MAEF) and The Ohio Arts Council, HAF Connect reached across borders to engage artists from Ghana, South Korea, and El Salvador.

“Plastic. It’s everywhere,” says Cathi Lehn PhD, of the City of Cleveland Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “Just look around your home, your car, and your school and office, and you will find plastic. Plastic has many properties that make it useful for a variety of different purposes. It is lightweight, strong, waterproof, and inexpensive. There is, however, a cost to these benefits, and that cost is the impact on our environment, our wildlife, and our health from plastic pollution.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, workshops for the Art Hats became virtual, with the result being an exhibit at RampArts Gallery at the 78th Street Studios in Cleveland. The debut featured eleven artists, including participants from Ghana, South Korea, El Salvador, and Los Angeles, alongside seven professional Northeast Ohio artists, including The Visit Arts Collective. With the assistance of Sustainable Cleveland manager Cathi Lehn and co-founder and Executive Director Nicole McGee of The Upcycle Parts Shop, we presented a “Stand Apart Hat Parade” on October 10. Starting at The Upcycle Parts Shop on St. Clair Avenue, this socially- distanced sidewalk parade was a safe and festive way for the local community show off their wild and festive plastic-embellished headgear as they strutted down St. Clair.

The HAF Connects Art Hat project will close out the year with a final exhibition at Art House, Inc. at 3119 Denison Avenue in Cleveland. The show will open on December 10 and will run through January 2021. It will feature nearly sixty works created by the original Denison Elementary School third graders; international, national, and local artists; and participants of the four community-based virtual Art Hat workshops.

To order, please go to: https://reshats.com/product/haf-connects-art-hat-catalog/