Plastic bag art

Artist Robin Frohardt is using art to bring greater awareness to the impact plastic has on the Earth.

Robin Frohardt laughs.
Artist Robin Frohardt conducts a workshop at Gerrard Hall on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus on April 11, 2018. Frohardt is an Andrew W. Mellon DisTIL fellow whose art will be featured at PLASTICON, an event that seeks to inform Carolina and the local community about the effects of disposable plastic packaging on the planet. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Robin Frohardt is creating art out of what typically ends up in a garbage can.

Using plastic bags, lids and various packaging, the Brooklyn-based artist has been transforming trash into fruit, sushi, cupcakes, cakes and even chicken for an upcoming installation that Frohardt will bring to Carolina in the fall called “Plastic Bag Store.”

The goal of the art, Frohardt said, is to show how pervasive the use of plastic bags has become in an engaging, interactive way.

Her different and humorous approach of bringing awareness to the impact plastic has on the Earth is what brought Frohardt to Carolina as the Andrew W. Mellon DisTIL Fellow at Carolina Performing Arts. As part of the fellowship, Frohardt is working with faculty, students and staff on sustainability and plastic projects. She has collaborated with faculty and students from various departments including archaeology, public health, public policy and Romance Languages. Forhardt has also worked with the Center for the Study of the American South, BeAM and campus environmental groups.

While Plastic Bag Store doesn’t come to Chapel Hill until the fall, Frohardt’s plastic art will be on display at PLASTICON on April 21 at CURRENT ArtSpace and Studio. The event aims to engage the community to collectively acknowledge and understand the effects of disposable plastic packaging on the planet.

To prepare for PLASTICON, Frohardt conducted a workshop on April 11, inviting the campus community to create art with plastic products that are thrown away every day.

Several students and staff members attended Frohardt’s workshop at Gerrard Hall. The group made flowers and sushi for PLASTICON.

“The idea came from my experiences of being in grocery stores and having people bag and double bag food that was already inside a bag,” Frohardt said.

Frohardt has been collecting plastic bags, packaging and caps — sometimes digging them out of the trash herself — to bring her Plastic Bag Store to life.

Frohardt folds disposable plastic bags to create flowers.

Riva Strauss, the artistic coordinator for Carolina Performing Arts, turned multiple bags into sushi art.

“I think that this is a better way to reach people,” Frohardt said. “Instead of preaching to people or listing facts or scaring people, it’s taking something that is funny or really engaging and inviting people to experience it.”