This Work of Public Art Is Actually Made of Trash

How often are you using plastic bottles? This sculpture implores you to ask.

After fretting over plastic straws, a local art project destined for its own recycling bin, some day, wants you to worry anew about plastic bottles.

Workers are erecting it this morning at Catalano Square, just in time for the new Under One Moon festival, which will feature a hodgepodge of dance, art, music and science over three days, centered on the attractive outdoor seating area. Possible topics range from recycling to gravity waves.

#1500BottlesASecond refers to the approximately number of plastic bottles discarded every second in the U.S. The idea came from the University School of Milwaukee, where a platoon of six art teachers and an army of about 400 students collected the 1,500 bottles, along with soda syrup barrels from Lakefront Brewery. With the help of environmental artist Melanie Ariens, they assembled a 10-foot-long sculpture of a bottle pouring out a torrent of clear plastic embedded with about 800 blue lights, according to Monique Charlier, executive director of the Black Box Fund.

Instead of Jonah, these are the kinds of bottles that are ending up in the bellies of whales. #1500BottlesASecond will eventually be shredded after its long tour of Milwaukee outdoor spaces is over. While bulky, it’s surprisingly light, and a stand was built to hold it when not hung from an overhang or tree.

Catalano Square is a magnet for public art, including the cage-like “Stratisformis” by Jin Soo Kim and the more recent and debated “New Pink Planet” by Richard Edelman. This weekend’s festival will suspend Museum of the Moon, a 23-foot replica of the moon by Luke Jerram, over the square. A full schedule of events is at the festival’s Facebook page, and retired NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence is giving a talk at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Statistics on water bottle usage only get worse. Globally, 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a trash vortex in the middle of said ocean) is a mere 1.6 million square kilometers, twice the size of Texas.

Much of it is plastic, more than previously thought.



Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.