Middletown Artist’s Marine Life Exhibit Aims To Share The Truth About Recycled Plastic


MIDDLETOWN – Volunteers have a unique chance to help create a life-size fabric replica of a sperm whale in the vacant old Woolworth building in the city center, using plastic that penetrates the oceans and endangers the Marine animals.

Middletown artist and University of Hartford researcher Kat Owens, who works on single-use plastic solutions and is lead the quilting project, is looking for people, including children, to help sew canvas materials until Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 428 Main Street.

The sperm whale was designated a state animal by the General Assembly in 1975.


This is part of a Downtown business district program to fill empty downtown storefronts with temporary displays.

Owens has traveled the world extensively for his work, including spending six months in India with his family and in Long Island Sound.

She was set to travel again this year, but the pandemic upset that plan, said Owens, who was prepared to travel to Uganda, Colombia and South America with a grant from National Geographic.

“All of a sudden I’m stuck in my house, doing a lot of Zoom meetings, feeling very frustrated,” said the artist, who also felt helpless in the face of the situation. “I was a little crushed.”

Colorful turtles, whales, sharks and other marine life adorn the walls of the building, most recently the home of irreplaceable artifacts. Blue is particularly popular for this particular project.

Owens has been collecting packaging plastic for five years, including shipping packaging bearing the universal recycling symbol.

“It’s really hard to recycle,” Owens said. “It’s written on it that it’s recyclable, but most plastics are not recyclable. The public is probably unaware that 95% of polymers worldwide cannot be recycled, she added.

This includes bags of vegetables and fruit. “I’m trying to do something healthy for myself – and it’s like a net with plastic around it?” It takes hundreds of years for most plastics to degrade, depending on conditions, Owens said.

Scientists say 90.5% of plastics ever made are not recycled.

“It’s supposed to make us feel better,” she said. Companies “put the responsibility” on customers to dispose of plastics properly, she said.

Some stores accept used grocery bags, but few participate, and it’s unclear what is done with the plastic, Owens said.

“If you don’t have money or unlimited time, I don’t know how you do it,” said Owens, who encourages people to refrain from using bags of produce by placing the items in bags. reusable in recycled materials.

Another idea is to buy locally – a way to avoid using unnecessary shipping containers. She also suggests that people consider purchasing a community-supported agriculture subscription or growing their own fruits and vegetables.

People can contact their legislators to encourage them to support the Plastic pollution law.

“Politics is important, but we also need consumers to tell the people who make these things that they don’t want them,” Owens said.

The artist has ordered Christmas gifts for his family online. An order arrived in three packages.

“All of the climatic kilometers were accumulated while going through it,” said Owens. “We don’t see any of this. Everything is hidden.

Owens kept her items and brought them to drop-off locations, however, she wasn’t entirely comfortable doing so. “Is it as bad as throwing it in the trash?” It pollutes the whole stream.

She recommends people patronize the recently opened Reboot Eco on River Road, which carries bulk produce, as a way to protect the environment.

Owens put away paper towels, diapers, tangerine fillets, pet food, chips and other wrappers, knowing she might use them someday.

She consulted a chapter of a book published in 1997 by researcher David Laist, the first person who collected all of the records on animals damaged by marine debris, Owens said. At that time, more than 250 species were affected by entanglement and ingestion. A later report put this number at 500.

All art is created to scale, she said. It features an 18-foot minke whale, which local students worked on at summer camp. Canvases for the giant whale will be sewn together and displayed.

Owens expects the project to take several months. She would also like to see the show hosted in area museums or other venues for wider exposure.

The DBD is allocated up to $ 100,000 in American Rescue Act funds to carry out the effort. It includes an exhibition of Haitian art by resident Pierre Sylvain at the former Shlien’s Furniture Co. at 584 Main Street.

For information, visit Facebook downtown business district page. A calendar of activities is posted on KatOwens.com. Visit the city’s recycling department at middletownct.gov.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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