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Anti-Arsenic Arsenal + Absorption + Art = Amelioration

On exhibit at Regis Center for Art March 30th to April 15th”¦The exhibit will be on display at the Regis Center for Art, 4052 1st Av. So., Mpls. from March 30th through April 15th and the opening reception is on Friday April 2nd from 6:00-8:30 and I will be there for the duration of that if people happen to come in and want to talk or ask questions.

By Nicholas Riggers

Signs led to stories”¦
Shortly after moving to Seward I began to notice the Superfund Cleanup signs sporadically placed throughout the neighborhood and started to begin doing some research into what the Superfund was and why the EPA was here and after discovering that the area apparently had dangerously high levels of Arsenic I wanted to create a piece of artwork that would address the cleanup process. Initially I was interested in interviewing residents and then collecting their stories and turning those stories into artwork, and I did a small piece on that, but residents were some what hesitant to talk. Now that its spring and the cleanup process is starting its 2010 work, I”'m going to try going door to door again and attending community meetings in the hope of collecting more stories.

Research led to sunflowers, mustard and ferns”¦

In early January I started to do some research and discovered that certain plants have the ability to absorb Arsenic and other heavy metals from the soil thus cleaning it, naturally. I wanted to create a piece that would encapsulate that idea. Thus the boxes and plants came, so in late February I planted Sunflowers and Mustard and just recently acquired some ferns. A few weeks ago I built the boxes and purposefully left them natural with the exception of text on either end of each box.

Plants lead to healing, renewal, and clean earth”¦

My hope is that people upon seeing this piece will have a heightened awareness of the healing and renewal power that plants have to clean the earth.
Regis Center for Art March 30th to April 15th”¦

The exhibit will be on display at the Regis Center for Art from March 30th through April 15th and the opening reception is on Friday April 2nd from 6:00-8:30. I will be there for the duration of that if people happen to come in and want to talk or ask questions.

The plants will be planted in the boxes and then there will be a pedestal next to them which will contain 100 smaller biodegradable pots that have seeds in them which individuals will then be able to take with them and in essence disperse and plant them spreading the “healing” power of the plants.
Inspiration from Mel Chin”¦

I”'ll tell you more about why I decided on doing plants. I drew inspiration from the artist Mel Chin and his work in St. Paul (if you”'re interested here is a link that contains more information about that project) I wanted to do something like that but perhaps a bit more mobile and assessable to a wider audience. Once I had the idea to work with plants I began to research what types of plants absorb heavy metals, particularly Arsenic, which is of course the center issue here in South Minneapolis.

Sunflowers and Mustard are natural cleaners, even in Chernobyl”¦

The first plant that came up were Sunflowers. I”'m not sure how many people are aware of this, but Sunflowers were and are used in the cleanup of Chernobyl. Sunflowers are really a miracle plant they have the ability to cleanup several heavy metals including Arsenic. In addition to being a natural cleaner they”'re visually appealing to look at, mentally and emotionally they have the ability to put you in a good mood. The other plant I chose was Ferns, like Sunflowers, Ferns are miraculous cleaners and will absorb Arsenic. Also certain Mustard plants are known to clean soil. I selected these plants because of their ability to grow here in Minnesota and since this was in response to the Superfund Cleanup these plants seemed perfect.

Take a pot”¦a seed”¦and plant and heal”¦

I also wanted to do a project with the plants because individuals from the general public didn”'t seem to know that plants have the ability to cleanup and perhaps do a better job then we, as humans can. It”'s my hope that from this project that there will be a heightened awareness among the general public as to what plants can do. Plants provide comfort and after talking to residents that live in the Superfund site, I could sense in some of them a lot of worry and frustration. Several were worried that perhaps their children or themselves were exposed to Arsenic, the long term effects on the area is unknown. I believe there were some studies done, but I don”'t know the results. Hopefully people will get some comfort out of seeing this project and seeing the plants. Perhaps they themselves will go out and turn their yards into gardens or just plant a Sunflower. On the opening reception night there will be small biodegradable pots with seeds in them that people can take and begin the process of planting and healing.

The word”“phyttoremediation”“must get out”¦

In the future I would like to see this project expanded, perhaps these mobile boxes can be reproduced and sent to schools or community gardens and centers where residents and children can learn about the process of phytoremediation. I would also like to see more residents actively involved in this. Also this summer I am going to begin photographing yards and residents that have been cleaned that will broadly address the cleanup and the effects it has had on individuals and families.

A bit more about me”¦

I am a senior at the U of M, and I graduate this May and the plants and boxes are part of the B.A. Exhibition that will be on display that people can see. I am passionate about the environment, arts and sustainability and how I can combine all three. I am also interested in how I can involve the community into art projects. Art has the special ability to address multiple issues and transcend divides among people to bring them closer together.

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