Monica Barletta is a sophomore in the Honors College at Florida International University. She is currently a Biology major on the Pre-med track and hopes to attend the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Outside of school, she enjoys creating art and spending time with her friends and family.
Using Art To Raise Awareness
The Bakehouse is a studio that houses many different artists, each working on their own projects to improve the community through their art. Among those artists is Lauren Shapiro, who began the art project called “Future Pacific” in order to bring awareness to the dying of coral reef systems. Shapiro, partnered with marine ecologist Dr. Nyssa Silbiger, use the help of the local community to teach them about the importance of coral reefs and how they are impacted by human activity. This semester I decided to complete my service hours at the Bakehouse Art Complex to continue working on Lauren Shapiro’s Future Pacific art installment.
I thought it was important to volunteer in something that I am passionate about. I decided to volunteer in working with Future Pacific because I believe the message Shapiro is communicating through her artwork is something that should reach more people. As a biology major, I have learned about the importance of protecting our planet and this project resonated with me. I have also lived in Florida my entire life, so I know that coral reefs are such a huge part in our economy and even protect against many environmental factors.
Another reason I chose to volunteer with this project is because I have always enjoyed making art, especially creating sculptures. It is something that I take pleasure in whenever I have free time as a way to destress. I thought this would be a cool and unique experience, being part of such a large-scale art project is something that not many people can say they have done.
I learned about this volunteer opportunity through my professor for my Art Society Conflict Honors class, John Bailly. For one of our class meetings, we spent the day working with Shapiro at one of her mold making workshops. I had such a great time working on this project with my peers and looked into signing up to help with this project again one day. Professor Bailly had sent out an announcement that Shapiro was looking for more volunteers on a certain day in order to help with the project and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to complete my art service requirement.
WHERE AND WHAT
The day our class originally came together for the first mold making workshop was October 7th, we spent about two and a half hours making the coral figures and placing them on the structure. The day I volunteered was a little different than when our class met. I signed up along with two other students from my honors class for the slot on October 29th from 2-6 pm.
We got there a little early and were led to our own table in the studio that had many different coral molds and pounds of clay waiting on it. Shapiro gave us a short explanation to show us the process of how to make the clay sculptures and gave us the freedom to choose the colors and style of coral we wanted to make. We spent about the first 3 hours filling trays with hundreds of the small clay corals we made. As the day went by, we decided to have more fun with it and make it as creative as we could. We spent the last hour placing all of our clay sculptures on the foundational structures and organizing them around each other, so they fit in best. Lauren had given us a bucket filled with a watered-down clay paste to use when attaching the corals which I had gotten all over myself at the end of the day. Although I ended up covered with clay, I really enjoyed myself working on this project, it allowed me to work together and connect with my classmates while learning more about a topic that is very important to me.
In essence, my experience volunteering for the Future Pacific project for Lauren Shapiro was a very unique experience that I’m lucky to have been a part of. Not only did I have a great time creating the clay corals, but I was also able to speak with Shapiro about this art project and she was able to teach me so much more about the reefs. This volunteer opportunity was perfect for me because it mixes together two subjects that I am very passionate about: science and art. This is a great way to educate the local community on the importance of reefs, especially in Florida. This is a topic that I believe more people should inform themselves on, I hope that this project influences others to go out and do their own research like it inspired me to do.
I thought it was very creative that Shapiro made this a hands-on activity for people to participate in as a way to spread a message and bring awareness to such an important issue. After being inspired to research this topic further, I learned that Coral Reefs are a huge part of the economy and bring in about $3.4 billion each year, as well as support around 36,000 jobs in just Broward and Miami-Dade County. They also act as buffers against storms and floods which is extremely important in Florida to protect us against hurricanes. Human activity has caused our coral reef ecosystems to die at an increasing rate. Climate change, pollution, and physical destruction are the main contributors to their deaths. Learning this information, I was inspired to find ways that I can help protect our reefs and I have tried to incorporate some of the tips to protect them I learned into my life. The loss of these reef systems would be devastating to Florida, which is why we have to be more environmentally conscious and do everything we can to save them.
“About Us.” BAC, http://www.bacfl.org/about-us.
“Florida’s Coral Reefs.” Florida Department of Environmental Protection, floridadep.gov/rcp/rcp/content/floridas-coral-reefs.
“Future Pacific.” Lauren Shapiro, laurenshapiroart.com/future-pacific.
US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “NOAA CoRIS – Regional Portal – Florida.” NOAA Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS) Home Page, 29 June 2009, http://www.coris.noaa.gov/portals/florida.html.