Painting the Town Pink

Artist Adrian Kondratowicz gives the standard trash bag a makeover. The bags raise environmental awareness but also cost a pretty penny. Fashionable or for real?

New York City-based contemporary artist Adrian Kondratowicz is putting a new spin on the typical garbage bag. This summer he launched the art intervention TRASH: anycoloryoulike. The project consists of selecting city blocks and replacing ordinary trash bags with art-inspired pink and white polka dot ones. The colorful bags are 100 percent bio-degradable and will naturally decompose in one to seven years.

Kondratowicz says the inspiration behind the intervention is art accessibility, environmental awareness, color therapy in public spaces, perception exercise, and maximizing trash. He hopes local businesses and residents will participate in beautifying city streets and help bring awareness to the amount of trash covering them. People are sensitized to seeing mounds of black trash bags lining sidewalks, but the use of multi-colored bags will hopefully make by-standers stop and think about the impact.

“It’s just a basic concept. We consider ourselves so advanced but we still throw our trash on the street,” says Renee Mlynaryk print and online media press coordinator for TRASH. “It has a progressive tone.”

Residents can purchase their own bags or businesses can sponsor neighborhoods and schools or commission a city block. To raise awareness of the project, Kondratowics has been initiating citywide installations in the New York City region. Individual business and residential buildings are approached and asked to use the TRASH bags in place of the ordinary garbage bags they would normally use. The street’s unique garbage sculptures are documented and shown on project’s website.

Schools are also being approached to implement TRASH into their art and environmental education. In May, Kondratowicz organized a TRASH cleanup project with students at the Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School in Connecticut. The response from parents and students was very positive, explains Mlynaryk. Children gained a better understanding of how much waste we produce.

While I believe the artist’s motives behind the intervention are admirable, I think there are more important aspects left unaccounted. I advocate for biodegradable plastic bags, beautifying our environment, and better acknowledgment of the amount of trash accumulating on street corners, but I think some aspects of “art” are better left alone. Many of the goals associated with this art project are positive and innovative, but a lot of tweaking still remains.

For one, the price. Each base white bag (pink bag with white polka dots) is $10. Yes, $10. In September a pink bag with gold polka dots will be released for the low, low price of $20. Kondratowicz says, “For now we are operating as an art project. They will be slightly more than your average trash bags because of the material and production costs.” I think slightly is an understatement.

Here’s an idea. If art accessibility is the main objective, why not take all the money and build a free art museum or kid-friendly art institute. The education will stay with the children a lot longer than a one-day TRASH cleanup. The polka dot garbage bags may be more visually appealing but they represent literally throwing money away.

Also, larger businesses are commissioning installations on lower-income area streets. At $10 a bag, the hundreds of dollars used to make a city block candy-colored would be better spent if given as a monetary donation. Sure polka dot bags will bring residents a smile, but giving each household $50 will buy a week’s worth of groceries.

There is a fine line between helping to raise environmental awareness and just banking in on the “green” craze. I’m not sure which side of the line the TRASH initiative resides.

Tags: new york cityarts and culturetrash

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