Sunday, July 19, 2009

making cash money with mel chin

mr. mel chin returned to mica last tuesday (he spoke at the commencement ceremony in may) to recruit some maca (masters of art in community arts) students and other artists, and involve baltimore in his latest grandiose gesture: the fundred dollar bill project. as someone who is known for assessing the situation and responding creatively and collaboratively, it was neat to hear how this latest project came about. because when he went to new orleans in the aftermath of katrina, there were no words for the devastation before him. as he explained tuesday, "sometimes you are experiencing things beyond you." it was the first time he was completely stuck. so he did research. and he found that there was an even bigger problem to address, further entrenched in the city and long ignored: lead poisoning. while, thankfully, we are smart enough today to severely limit our use of lead, in older cities with contaminated soil any uneducated residents are at risk from birth. (lead poisoning has proven corrolations with learning disabilities and violent behavior....)

when mel asked how much it would cost to clean it up, he was told a total of 300 million dollars. knowing that the only way to get that money would be to actually make it, he started collecting "fundred" dollar bills from students all over the nation and storing them in a vault in a new orleans neighborhood. the plan? present these fundreds to congress (via an armored car running on vegetable oil from school cafeterias where students have contributed) for an even exchange of 300 million to then use to reclaim the soil in new orleans. (there is a team of scientists currently working on finding the smartest solution, so a plan of action can be presented in tandem with the "cash.") eventually, this completely "community arts" project can serve as an example for other cities in the same boat. detroit. baltimore. and so on. sounds like a pretty cool idea if you ask me. i can't wait to make my contribution and see how it all plays out.

and because mel isn't the only one who has to respond to shitty situations by making art, here are some other post katrina projects:

prospect new orleans
the hurricane poster project

photo above taken by amanda wiles

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