ASC Service Project: Jesse Velazquez

Currently majoring in biology at FIU, Jesse Velazquez has hopes of studying and preserving the wildlife in America. With an appreciation for music and nature, he hopes to educate himself in the arts for a deeper connection to the world. Always open to learn, Jesse enjoys creative conversation about the systems we live in and the changes we can make.

Beach Cleanups – September 13 & October 4

Who?

The local environmental awareness organization Send it for The Sea has organized many cleanups in South Florida. The Send It for the Sea team is an educational media group bringing awareness to pollution in the oceans. Often bringing awareness to laws and regulations of the city and county, or showing firsthand evidence of pollution into waterways, they have been able to increasingly garner attention. They also use underwater photography to show the endangered systems in Miami, especially with the recent anoxic zones that were prevalent throughout Biscayne Bay. By capturing marine life underwater, they have used art and nature to spread their message.

In the cleanups I attended, they worked with fellow conservation group “Plastic Fisherman.” Plastic Fisherman is an artist that creates small fish with the plastic he picks up at the beach. The media group has been able to use the pollution he finds to create small pieces almost every day he is at the beach. Since February of this year, the Plastic Fisherman has been able to create over a hundred of these plastic fish. Using everything from plastic bags and flip flops, to plastic plates and old rope he has created colorful temporary art pieces.

Image by Plastic Fisherman @plasticfisherman on Instagram

Why?

Because nature has become a great focus in my life, awareness and conservation has come second nature. Beach cleanups are incredibly important to the protection of marine life, preventing micro-plastics from infiltrating their way into the food chain.

How?

Send It For The Sea post many opportunities for ocean lovers to join in on the cleanups, hosting one almost every week. It provides a place for like minded individuals to meet and make new connections together.

What & Where?

The cleanups I joined were at Matheson Hammock Park and South Beach. At the cleanups, each group is given bags to collect the trash. I went with my family both times. My younger brother and cousins have a deep appreciation for the ocean as well. Each group naturally chose an area to clean up, and as many people as were at the park, it seemed that there was still much more we could pick up. Pieces broken down by photo-degradation made it very difficult to gather every single shard. Realizing the damage humans continue to make brings a sense of responsibility. Only humans have created this destruction on the planet, and only we can fix it.

My cousins and little brother at Matheson Hammock Park after a cleanup with Send It For The Sea. Photo taken by Jesse Velazquez.

Once returned, all the trash is weighed and calculated for the grand total. Since their inception, Send it for the Sea has gathered over 20,000 pounds of trash from Miami alone. It is a great feeling being able to make a change, no matter how small. I hope to do more cleanups with the ASC class, as we did in Deering Estate.

Future Pacific – October 29

Who?

Originally standing as an industrial bakery, the Bakehouse Art Complex is now a hub for Miami creatives. Over 35 years old, the art complex houses many studios for artists to work in and galleries available for display (About Us). It is the Bakehouse’s mission to serve as a cultural center for the city, investing in new ways to help connect artists to the local art scene. Currently in residency, Lauren Shapiro has taken initiative to connect nature and art with her installation of “Future Pacific.” Opening November 21, 2020, the installation highlights the fragility and importance of coral reefs.

How?

After visiting the Bakehouse Art Complex with the Art Society Conflict class, I realized the power art had. I was under the impression that all available spaces to help out had been taken up, but Professor Bailly notified me that plenty of spots were still open. When the chance to work with Lauren again in a small group for her installation, I knew it was a great opportunity.

Why?

As I progress through my academic career, science has become one of my main focuses. I love learning about the mechanisms that run the world we live in. I love science and would like to share my love with others in new creative ways. I hope to one day make my own job in science. Shapiro’s project reminds me that this is very possible. With the right connections and the right idea, great things can happen.

By connecting science with sculptures, a whole new audience can be exposed to the beauty of nature. It is our responsibility as South Florida locals to protect our oceans. Shapiro hopes to inspire the community to follow suit.

What & Where?

Together with Monica Barletta, we pressed and molded over a hundred clay figures to replicate a coral reef. By mixing clays of different colors, we were able to represent the phenomenon of coral bleaching. Browns, blues and greys were prominent in all of the structures. We then placed the clay molds onto large geometrical structures on site at the Bakehouse Art Complex. As the clay dried these colors lessened in saturation and some began to crumble and flake. I believe this further connects viewers to the vulnerability of the coral reefs. Very subtle changes in ocean water chemistry can lead to the decimation of reef populations over time. The hard edges and peculiar shapes of the structures used give a sense of the harsh future we may face. I believe the name “Future Pacific” acts almost as a warning.

Monica Barletta and I with the molds we pressed. Photos taken by Jesse Velazquez.

I hope visitors of the instillation will realize that science is not something only for teachers and doctors, but something we can all use to connect with. Science teaches people about the world, and I believe art can teach one about themselves. Bringing these two together will open people’s minds.

Summary

Both experiences were great ways to expose myself to the different forms of environmental conservation. Previously, I believed it was hard for the individual to make a real change in the environment. With new and creative approaches I have learned this is a falsehood I will no longer follow, change is real and change is happening now. The more ways the message can be shared among people, the more change we will see.

Hours

Citations

“About Us.” BAC, Bakehouse Art Complex, http://www.bacfl.org/about-us.

Plastic Fisherman, http://www.plasticfisherman.com/.

SENDIT4THESEA. SENDIT4THESEA, sendit4thesea.org/.

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