Camden, New Jersey, has a new, 15-foot tall environmental guardian watching over the State Street Pedestrian Bridge on the Cooper River. With an oversized trash picker in hand and exposed heart chamber glowing, this smiling robot is on a mission to take care of the planet, one discarded washing machine at a time.
Meet “Mechan 11,” also known as “The Collector,” by Portland, Oregon-based collective Tyler FuQua Creations. It’s among the six large-scale, outdoor art installations designed by nationally recognized artists as part of A New View—Camden.
A collective view
“The history of this city is rich and its issues, a lot of them, are not of its own making,” said Kimberly Camp, a Camden native who curated the project alongside Judith Tannenbaum. “This is an opportunity for people to rethink their relationships with cities, to visit the city, to see that there are wonderful things that happen there—and to stop dumping their trash in people's backyards.”
The project comes together thanks to the collaboration of the City of Camden, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, and the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, as well as a $1 million Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge grant.
Officially unveiled for Earth Day 2021 on Thursday, April 22, the works in A New View can be visited for free—or happened upon serendipitously—by locals and visitors through October. Originally slated for May 2020, and rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the new launch date emphasizes the project’s environmental focus.
Cleaning up the act
All pieces are intended to raise awareness around unlawful dumping of bulk waste—from the 35-foot-long panther by DKLA Design made from repurposed car hoods to the garden filled with mealworms devouring Styrofoam packaging by Terreform ONE. Organizers of the project say such illegal dumping costs taxpayers more than $4 million annually.
“It’s consciousness-raising,” said co-curator Tannenbaum. “Hopefully, the creativity of the projects can open people's eyes to how you can use materials that are usually discarded, how you can use physical property in a way that changes your everyday environment.”
The project received more than 130 applications, which were winnowed down to six. Two additional works from New Jersey artists, woodworker Tom Marchetty and photographer Erik James Montgomery, will also appear at sites and around the city.
Especially considering the public and environmental aspects of A New View, both creativity and feasibility were key factors in deciding the finalists. An engineer from Cooper’s Ferry partnership assisted artists in making their visions structurally sound, and local artists served as apprentices on the project.
Spread throughout Camden neighborhoods, the curators hope the project uplifts and inspires the community. “You put some resources behind allowing the creative center of an environment to grow and it responds accordingly,” Camp said.
What, When, Where, and Accessibility:
A New View—Camden, a public arts project produced through the City of Camden, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, and the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, will be unveiled on Earth Day 2021, April 22, and remain on display through October. A map of the six family-friendly public art projects can be found at anewviewcamden.com. There is no cost to visit the large-scale, outdoor art installations.
Image description 1: An metal panther with yellow eyes looks ready to spring into action from its location on a bed of gravel with tall green grass in the background and a blue sky with clouds above.
Image description 2: A larger-than-life brown and silver robot spears a full-sized washing machine in a concept drawing from Tyler FuQua Creations.