Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 25, 2013

Blazer piece one of just five in state to win contest by Energy and Environment Cabinet

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — A sculpture that was the work of 130 art students at Paul Blazer High School is bound for Frankfort where it will be on display for a year at the offices of the Department for Environmental Protection.

The piece, more than three feet in diameter, is a colorful cascade of swirling spirals resembling a chandelier.

Each of the hundreds of spirals is made of a recycled plastic bottle, laboriously cut and colored with marking pens and then strung on metal rings.

It is going to Frankfort because it is one of five student-produced pieces in the state to win the Energy and Environment Cabinet’s eco art contest.

Students who worked on the piece gathered Wednesday in the school library to present it to John Eisiminger, coordinator of the Kentucky Excel program.

The sculpture was an early favorite among cabinet staffers who saw it, he said. “Everybody loved it. They loved the fact that it was inspired by another artist and that it used recycled bottles,” Eisiminger said.

The inspiration was acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly, whose work is on display at major galleries in the United States and abroad. Among his most striking pieces — some of which actually are used as chandeliers — are assemblages of hundreds of curved and rippling blown-glass pieces.

Art teacher Jennifer Spade suggested a project using recycled plastic after reading about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an immense concentration of plastic and other debris in the North Pacific Ocean.

She also suggested a title for the piece, which the students embraced: “O Say Can You Save Our Seas.”

Students gathered hundreds of bottles from their homes, the school cafeteria and their classmates, cleaned them and sliced off the bottoms before cutting them into spirals. Using colored markers and their imaginations they turned the spirals into a translucent rainbow.

“It took a lot of experimenting,” said Sarah Schneider, a senior.

Mainly they followed their own tastes. “It’s set up in a way teenagers like, the colors and the shapes,” said senior Kierstin Greene.

The entire project took about six weeks and had clear academic value, Spade said. “They learned about glassblowing and about Chihuly’s work, and there was the eco aspect of getting everyone involved in bringing in bottles.”

Eisiminger, who loaded the sculpture into the back of his state vehicle (a Chevrolet Volt hybrid with a green leaf motif painted on the side), said it will be a welcome addition in Frankfort. “Our building is kind of drab, so it will add a lot of color,” he said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.