Teens Ride Wave Of Success Over Litter Art Exhibit SanTan Sun News

Teens Ride Wave Of Success Over Litter Art Exhibit

October 23rd, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
Teens Ride Wave Of Success Over Litter Art Exhibit
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By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor

Four local teens are riding a wave of recognition after their creative work linking art to the marine litter problem earned them a silver medal in a competition.

The quartet – Ali Arce, 16, a Hamilton High junior; his sister Ruya Arce, 18, a University of Arizona freshman; Katherine Chou, 16, a Chandler High junior and Grace Wei, 17, a Hamilton senior – earned an award for their entry to the 2018 Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition.

The teens entered the contest as members of Hamilton Arts4Hearts, a Hamilton High club.

The competition, sponsored by Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, tasked middle and high school students from around the country with designing and heading creative campaigns in their communities or schools that teach others and inspire people to take action to decrease or prevent marine debris.

The Arts4Hearts crew received $2,500 for their campaign, which they called “Arts4Oceans.”

They partnered with local nonprofit ICAN, which offers after-school programs for at-risk youths, to teach younger students about the issue of ocean pollution and the importance of recycling.

The four team members educated students in the ICAN after-school program about the impact of trash thrown into the ocean and got them to brainstorm ways to reduce the amount of marine litter, including reducing their straw use and using paper cups instead of plastic water bottles, Wei said.

Then they organized an art show using pieces created by the ICAN children as well as work by high school, middle school and studio artists. The art was designed to inspire people to reduce litter in oceans.

Katherine, Grace, Ali and Ruya also collected trash, along with their Hamilton High Arts4Hearts peers, around campus and created a sculpture of the garbage.

They drew a shadow of a child and displayed the sculpture in a dark room with a light shining on it that made the trash’s shadow look larger to reflect the enormity of the marine litter problem.

Katherine, who attended Hamilton High last school year, said she was co-president of the Arts4Hearts Club with Wei last year and got the idea for the group to enter the competition.

Katherine realized marine litter was an important issue to tackle, even in Arizona, where no oceans exist.

“I figured this would be something cool for us to do,” Katherine said. “I got interested in the ocean and the impact it has on us. One of my friends said, ‘Yeah, but we live in Arizona.’ I just thought, we all live on one planet. If that’s the way we think of nature, then there’s a problem. I thought we should spread awareness for ocean problems.”

Ruya, who was a Hamilton High School student when she and the three other teens entered the competition, said she and Ali had lived in Los Angeles when they were younger.

“It’s disheartening to see all the trash on the side of the ocean,” she said. “Me and my brother were the ones in the family that are more environmentally conscious.”

Ali said litter is “pretty much everywhere” in Los Angeles. “A lot of people are just unaware of the impact it has, basically the pollution in general,” he said.

Having been born in Santa Barbara, California, Grace said “the ocean has been in my memory for a long time.”

“I would go to the beach and I’d see floating pieces of trash in the ocean,” she said. “I thought that was wrong.”

Grace had volunteered with ICAN and, through a library program, was already teaching children about environmental awareness.

“I decided to branch out to ICAN, as well,” she said. “When kids tossed a can of soda, they don’t think of the actual impact. I decided to do more research on the little things. I had them come up with little ways they can get rid of the trash going into the ocean.”

The ICAN students drew pictures on issues they felt were important related to littering including choosing reusable bags.

The four teens were pleased with the pieces in the art show at the Chandler Hamilton branch library.

“I thought it was great…we primarily influenced children for the most part,” Ali said. “They’re the ones who basically determine our future, their awareness of the ocean, pollution, can basically create solutions for our future.”

Katherine enjoyed tying art into environmental lessons.

“I have art class every week,” she said. “I’m from an Asian family; from a young age, we go to art class, we aim to improve ourselves.”

Alyssa Irizarry, program director for the Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, said of the Chandler-based team, the judges “really appreciated this multi-faceted approach they had to engaging many members of their community.”

“They educated their classmates by collecting and sorting trash,” Irizarry said. “Then they went to ICAN, and they educated the young people in that program about how all their communities are connected. They included tangible ways students could minimize the impact and reduce the plastic footprint.”

She added, “That centerpiece of that shadow sculpture, we really (were) impressed by. We loved the symbolism of the child, demonstrating the health of the ocean is affected by the health of communities.”

A team of judges including Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs staff members and a project coordinator with the University of Massachusetts Boston Urban Harbors Institute, chose the winners of the competition.

Individuals or teams of any size can enter the competition, Irizarry said.

“Our mission is to engage teenagers in ocean conservation through the arts,” she said of Bow Seat. “We created the debris competition as a way for them to create projects to make change in their community, to create campaigns and other creative projects that would really tackle debris.”

Information: bowseat.org.

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