Young Men’s Leadership Academy students swarm a water bottle drop-off box every morning. Some bring a few bottles and some bring one, but they all bring something.
At times, students barge into art teacher Melissa Schulman’s classroom to bring bottles to her, she said.
“They’re like, ‘Miss Schulman!’ — holding the bottle up. I’m like, ‘The bag is back there!’” she said. “They’re all great about it.”
The student body of about 400 is close to collecting — alongside nine other area schools — nearly 20,000 water bottles in an art process artist Willie Cole calls ‘Artcycling.’ Collected bottles will be used to build a giant water bottle sculpture in partnership with the Tarrant County Education Foundation and artist Cole.
Students like Deshaun Raymond, 15, have joined the effort to meet the 20,000 bottle collection goal by Oct. 20. After a Fort Worth visit from artist Cole on Oct. 24, students will clean the bottles and conjoin them into large sheets of plastic that will be used to make the sculpture.
Work sessions to complete the sculpture will take place between the students and Cole throughout fall and winter 2023 and into spring 2024. The finished sculpture will be on display from March 1-31 at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy St.
Raymond is participating in the collection effort because he loves art and processes.
He said he is committed to getting into Howard University to study film — he is only a sophomore in high school, but the school’s culture inspires thinking about higher education as early as sixth grade.
“Seeing what people could do with not only special effects but also practical, grounded stuff, and seeing people in their rooms making these amazing films with deep messages just really resonated,” Raymond said.
While he is only a beginner filmmaker, Raymond hopes to make connections through the sculpture project.
Tarrant County Education Foundation Executive Director Dr. Arlene Barnett said the goal is to teach students about the importance of higher education; expose them to science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers in an unconventional way; and positively impact the community by exposing students to opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten, such as working with Cole.
“We want them to emulate things they see,” Barnett said.
Raymond and Schulman will continue to pursue Barnett’s goal through the sculpture project.
“Part of it is to have them exposed, not just to the creative part of the art but also a conversation around what’s happening in the community, what’s happening on our planet and what they’re going to do about it,” Barnett said.
How to participate
Community members can drop off 16-ounce water bottles 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Saturday through Oct. 20 at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy St.
Bottles must not be crushed and should have bottle caps.
Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.