Events, People, Photos

ACAC Artist-in-Residence Plarn Art Project

The soft rustle of plastic newspaper bags fills the basement of the Fox Library. A half-dozen people are sorting them into piles by color. This is the Plarning Brigade, a group of volunteers participating in Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture’s (ACAC) artist-in-residence Michelle Lougee‘s collaborative project.

Brucie Moulton from Sustainable Arlington (L) chats with Lougee (R) as they prep bags for plarn.

Lougee, a sculptor and fiber artist who works in a variety of media, is teaching Arlington residents how to make plastic yarn, or “plarn,” out of newspaper and produce bags, and how to crochet that plarn into three-dimensional, organic-looking shapes. She’s been using post-consumer waste, including plastic bags, as an art material for a decade. Her work explores the tension between nature and humanity, addressing pollution and consumption’s affect on the environment by juxtaposing organic shapes and synthetic materials. Now she’s bringing her skills and perspective to Arlington, where, with her guidance, the Plarning Brigade will produce a large-scale installation.

Sonya pierces the closed ends of yellow newspaper bags so she can crochet them into plarn.

The ACAC has set up plastic bag collection boxes at the Fox Library and the Department of Public Works to gather supplies for the project. The Fox is hosting monthly meetups for the Brigade to work on the installation, and the ACAC is offering a series of workshops around town for those interested to learn the basics and join the Brigade.

“Micro,” an element from Lougee’s installation Ubiquitous (2015) perches in the display case in the Fox Library lobby.
A member of the plarn brigade sorts plastic newspaper bags to turn into plarn.

Arlington Public Art will exhibit the plarn installation on the Minuteman Bikeway as part of its ongoing Pathways initiative, which it started in 2017 to add more creative works to Arlington’s cultural district. Some contributors to Pathways project Ripple, a knitted and crocheted “yarn bomb” installation spearheaded by local artist/activist Adria Arch, are now turning their fiber art skills to plarn for this new project.

Holly crochets plarn.
Lougee (R) shows a volunteer how to crochet plarn.

In addition to adding another exhibit to Pathways, the project contributes to Arlington’s ongoing push for its residents to live more sustainability and reduce plastic waste. With Lougee’s guidance, the Plarning Brigade will keep trash out of the environment and use it to make something beautiful and thought-provoking.

More information about how to join the Plarning Brigade is available on the ACAC’s Arts Arlington website.

Different-sized knobs of blue plarn take shape during the workshop on January 25, 2020.
A “larva” from Lougee’s installation Timber! (2018) rests on the floor.
The colorful ends of newspaper bags litter the floor in the Fox Library community meeting room.
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Events, Places

Feast of the East

This past weekend, Capitol Square threw its 21st annual Feast of the East, an outdoor event to celebrate East Arlington’s community and local businesses. The event takes place along Mass Ave in East Arlington. Mass Ave, Arlington’s main street, stays open during the event; police block off parking lanes for businesses to set up booths in.

The Fox Library kicks off the event with its Fox Festival Parade, after which local brass bands play outside for the rest of the afternoon. Restaurants offer street food from cultures all around the world, and “Kid Zones” around the event have entertainment ranging from clowns to sand art for Arlington’s younger residents.

It’s a great way to spend an early summer day in Arlington.

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Events, People, Photos, Places

The Little Fox Shop

11 years ago, Susan Dorson and Amy Weitzman opened a nonprofit resale shop in the Edith M. Fox branch of the Arlington Library. They collected donations of toys, kids’ and maternity clothes, and childcare items like high chairs and strollers, furnished the store with any cheap or free furniture and clothing racks they could get their hands on, and recruited volunteers to help run the store.

Faith, a Little Fox Shop volunteer, organizes clothes to put out in the store.

When The Little Fox Shop first opened, it was only open one day a week, but Dorson, Weitzman, and later Stephanie Murphy (a store manager who joined about 7 years ago) were able to gradually increase the store’s operating hours until it was open 5 days a week. The Little Fox Shop raises funding for the Fox Library. According to its website, the store’s revenue has enabled the library to host more events, decorate, buy new fixtures, books, and video games, and stay open two more days a week.

Last year, the store was more popular than ever, Dorson says. The community loved it. And it came as a surprise to the store’s patrons and managers when it closed unexpectedly that August. WickedLocal Arlington reports that the Friends of the Fox board, who were in charge of dispersing funds raised to the town and approving major funding expenditures for the shop, fired Dorson and Murphy after a series of disagreements about Dorson and Murphy’s request for a raise and for the board to consider them payroll employees instead of volunteers with a stipend. Dorson says she was hurt the board was unwilling to negotiate with them; the store is very important to her and she, the store’s employees and volunteers, and the community were all disappointed to see it shut down.

Arlington’s government opened a Request for Proposal for applicants to open a resale shop in the space the shop had been. Dorson and Murphy teamed up with Weitzman to apply to reopen The Little Fox Shop. They won.

Dorson and volunteer Sandy discuss where to put a donation the shop received.

“The community support has been tremendous,” Dorson said. “People seem really excited for us to open up again.” After two hectic weeks of collecting mountains of donated goods, cleaning, and organizing, Dorson, Murphy, and their staff reopened the store on May 1st.

A parent shops for clothes during the grand re-opening.

The library threw a grand re-opening event on May 11. Dozens of parents and kids showed up to drop off even more donations, browse the newly set-up shelves, and eat donut holes. The store was noisy and crowded — at one point, a line stretched from the checkout counter to halfway through the store — but the managers and volunteers kept everything moving and organized with smiles on their faces.

Volunteer Victoria rings up a customer.

“[Running the store has been] kinda like raising a child,” Dorson says. Her kids were three and five when the store first opened. This year, her older son is a junior in high school and starting to think about college. And now that the Little Fox Shop has re-opened, she and Murphy have one more child’s future to think about again.

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