In the bag: Bernard’s ‘BYOB’

By Morgan Brooke | Oct 03, 2018
Photo by: Kim Bernard Kim Bernard installed “BYOB” last month at Rockland Public Library.

Rockland — City artist artist Kim Bernard has installed a new sculpture at the Rockland Public Library called “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Bag) to celebrate Rockland’s passing of a ban on single-use plastic bags. All 300 bags will be given away when the installation comes down on Jan. 15.

Bernard was inspired to create the “BYOB” project to raise awareness about the single-use plastic bag ban, restricting all merchants from giving plastic bags to their customers as of the first day of 2019. With a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, Bernard bought 300 reusable nylon bags to hang in the library.

Bernard said she decided to get “the brightest, most colorful” bags she could find, to make the design more visually appealing. With this project, Bernard wants to educate the public about the importance of reducing plastic waste.

Not only does this installation help raise awareness of the Rockland plastic ban, it gives Bernard, a teacher at Camden’s Watershed School, the opportunity to get students involved from an artistic viewpoint. Bernard spent a class telling her students about the project and asking for input. The students had ideas filled with excitement and passion and were thrilled for the opportunity to help unload and unpack the fun bags.

“I had a lesson plan for that day, but the students got so excited about the project, that we spent much of class discussing idea possibilities for the installation,” Bernard said. In the future, she also wants to engage and empower youth in the design process so that they may have a beneficial artistic experience.

This is not the first environmentally beneficial art piece that Bernard has created.

“The most similar project I've done was called ‘COWS’ — Clean Ocean Waves Sculpture —which is on permanent display at the Marine Science Center at the UNE,” Bernard said.

While an artist in residence at the University of New England in Biddeford, Bernard worked with a Marine Pollution class to collect ocean debris on International Coastal Cleanup Day. After the students collected data, they sorted, washed and shredded the material into weave-able strips.

“I then installed a giant spiral loom in the science center stairwell, and the UNE community participated in a four-day trash weaving marathon. ‘COWS’ is now frequented by school groups, students, faculty and guests,” she said. “The installation is accompanied by educational material explaining the importance of keeping trash out of our oceans.”

The average person throws away more than 300 plastic bags per year. As Rockland has a population of more than 7,000, the new plastic bag ban could potentially save the environment more than two million plastic bags per year. Community members are encouraged to stop by the Rockland library to view “BYOB” before Jan. 5 and pick up their own reusable bags.

There are many other small steps one can take to conserve the environment: invest in a reusable coffee cup to eliminate unnecessary waste; ask for no straw with that afternoon iced coffee; and of course, use reusable shopping bags.

Bernard shows her sculptures, installations and other artistic works nationally; and has created artwork for places such as the Portland Museum of Art, Currier Museum of Art, Fuller Craft Museum and Colby College Museum of Art. In addition to teaching art at the Watershed School, an independent high school in Camden, Bernard is a teacher at Maine College of Art.

Camden Herald Intern Morgan Brooke is a sophomore student at Watershed School.

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