Local reality show ‘Junk Art Scramble’ combines art, ecology
What’s a reality show, an art competition and a lesson in green ecology all in one? The answer is “Junk Art Scramble” (JAS), a new locally-grown, direct-to-Web video series in which two teams of local artists are given 10 days to create a piece of artwork entirely out of found scrap materials. It’s the brainchild of Ed Martinez, artist and environmental activist, who has two self-appointed goals in life: funding art in public schools, and making people aware of just “how much crap this society generates.”
As executive producer and principal partner in Upcycle Productions, Martinez is on a mission to save our throwaway culture from its own junk. A 30-year resident of Santa Cruz, he was formerly development director for Grey Bears, where he created sculptures out of cast-off computer parts as a way to educate the public about that organization’s e-waste recycling program. While JAS is undertaken in the same spirit (turning “trash into treasure”), Martinez also hopes the show will serve the larger purpose of publicizing the importance of arts programs in public schools.
“Kids that have strong art and music programs in their schools do far better on SAT testing than kids that have had their arts programs gutted by short-sighted budget hacks,” says Martinez. JAS supports Mariposa’s Art, an organization that brings arts programs to schools whose funding has been cut, promoting the organization on the radio and on their website. Once the show gets fully funded, Martinez hopes to offer Mariposa financial support as well. To deflect the notion that the arts in schools are somehow superfluous, JAS participants routinely repeat the mantra, “Art IS core curriculum.”
The pilot episode of JAS was taped last month at the vast and amazing Digital Media Factory (DMF). Located upstairs in the old Wrigley Building, the thriving DMF is a professional sound, video, film, and recording studio operated by director/cinematographer Marty Collins and musician/producer Ginny Mitchell. Martinez introduced the show to a small but enthusiastic audience, along with guest co-host, Kathleen Crocetti, Mission Hill art teacher extraordinaire, seamstress, and public art facilitator, who wore one of her signature gowns festooned with hundreds of shiny, cut-up and recycled CD discs, layered on like fish scales.
Then it was time to bring out the contestants. Team Cabrillo included art instructors Jamie Abbott, Diane Patracuola, Geoff Caras, Oscar Netsil (aka Ron Baldwin), and student Brandon Burgess. Team Tannery consisted of resident artists Kirby Scudder, Stephen Lynch, Art Pitts, Gayle Pitts and the single-named Maha.
Martinez calls the artists’ mission “alchemy,” not turning lead into gold, but turning scrap material into art. As in most reality TV shows, the competitors aren’t allowed to just do whatever they want. There’s a theme challenge involved, and in this first episode, the artists were instructed to find inspiration in a poem by the late Morton Marcus, selected and read aloud by Marcus’ wife, Donna Mekis. (Fittingly enough, she chose “The Construction,” from Marcus’ 1972 collection, “Where the Oceans Cover Us.”)
After hearing the poem, the teams had 10 days to go out and scavenge materials around town, design, and build their artworks at the DMF studio workshop. The following Sunday, the final act of the show was taped, when the teams’ art pieces were evaluated by guest judges Wallace Baine, Greg Archer and Chip.
With “Junk Art Scramble,” Martinez hopes to put both the DMF and the Santa Cruz arts scene on the virtual map. The pilot episode screens Friday night, May 6, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the DMF, as part of the First Friday Art Tour. The two complete pieces of artwork will also be on view, and they are something to see, very different from each other, yet both extravagant in the degree of energy and creativity involved. Martinez has ideas for a complete 26-show season of JAS, including the one he hopes to tape next involving two teams of local high school students. Stay tuned.
Visit junkartscramble.wordpress.com for updates on the program, and to find out how you, too, can be a contestant on a future show.