Thursday, June 20, 2024

A 20-foot tapestry made of plastic waste is on display at the Mass Audubon Magazine Beach Nature Center. (Photo: Cathie Zusy)

The 20-foot community-made tapestry at the Mass Audubon Magazine Beach Nature Center is horrifying, but that’s by design, said curator Cecily Miller and artist Michelle Lougee.

From a distance, it’s a pleasant image of a white bird soaring through the colors of nature: rich blues, greens and browns. But it’s all made of bottle caps, discarded toys, packaging elements and takeout utensils – plastic pollution collected by hundreds of volunteers organized by the Charles River Conservancy as part of an annual Earth Day Clean-Up. “I was really hoping a lot of the trash would come from the river banks and the park itself,” Magazine Beach Partners President Cathie Zusy. “We’ve been working for 10 years to revitalize this beautiful green space, [and] it’s a constant challenge to keep it clean.”

The junk was sewn to a burlap backing at drop-in workshops held in the park’s newly renovated 1818 Powder Magazine – sometimes while Mass Audubon staff offered kids nature education activities – and at Gallery 263 in Cambridgeport.

As a result, the art (dubbed “Rosie,” for the roseate tern that is Mass Audubon’s mascot and the inspiration for the bird image) is disturbing viewed up close.

“We hope that as you take in the details, the frightening accumulation of plastic waste, you will imagine it floating in the river or infiltrating a beach, and the impact on wildlife. And when it breaks down into microplastics, it will impact human health,“ Lougee said. “We hope that you will be horrified as well as delighted,” Miller said, “and that the horror will move you to take action” and push for corporate accountability and legislation against single-use plastic.

Other details to look for in the tapestry: almost 100 frogs, penguins, bears, turtles and other “talisman” animals drawn on plastic lids resulting from open-air workshops for kids at The Port neighborhood’s Community Art Center; QR codes linking people with environmentally themed articles and podcasts, the work of teens in Cambridge Rindge and Latin School’s Marine Conservation Club; and “pennants” – triangles covered with plastic – over the main entrance to the center that were created by a third-grade class at the nearby Morse Elementary School.

A 2.5-minute video by Owen Mack captures the process and has more from Miller and Lougee.

  • The art will be on view through Nov. 30 during regular open hours of the Mass Audubon Magazine Beach Nature Center: from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; and noon to 7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Magazine Beach is at the river end of Magazine Street in the Cambridgeport neighborhood.

This post was written from a press release.