Central District students' sculptures look at pollution's impact


Students at the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District’s Meadowbrook Alternative Program recently worked with a world-renowned artist while learning about environmental issues.

The Community Parent Center secured a grant that enabled students to take part in an artist-in-residence project with visual artist Jeffrey Schrier, who is known globally for his environmental art. The project culminated with a Dec. 13 workshop.

Schrier, who attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and California Institute of the Arts, is a former faculty member at the Parsons School of Design. He has also been a guest lecturer and artist-in-residence at Syracuse University and the State University of New York at Buffalo, according to his website, in addition to presenting programs at Northwestern University, Quinnipiac University, the University of South Florida-Gainsville, Loyola Marymount University, the University of Houston and Hunter College.

Schrier’s work, which has been exhibited in museums across New York, often uses discarded or recycled objects to create modern interpretations of ancient or traditional texts, sometimes with references to Jewish themes. Schrier’s “Wings of Witness” sculpture, which some of the MAP students participated in two years ago, memorializes the more than 6 million victims of the Holocaust, with an installation of soda can tabs fashioned into an enormous pair of butterfly wings.

MAP students also used unconventional materials for their recent project with the artist. Before 2013 came to a close, they collected empty water bottles over five weeks. The objective was to create sculptures that examined the impact of pollution and global warming on oceans, lakes and rivers.

Wendy Tepfer, the Community Parent Center director, noted that students and parents often toss water bottles into the trash without thinking how they adversely affect the environment. She explained that the recycling campaign associated with the project showed MAP students how many of the throwaways accumulate in a short time, in addition to a new approach to creating art.

“Creating a collaborative art installation with these recyclables resulted in their understanding of how working together as a creative community can impact global issues, ” she said. “Through the process of transforming ‘junk’ into art, students were given an expanded view of how they see and respond to the physical world around them.”

The students’ sculptures are now on display at the Brookside School in North Merrick.