Since my first visit in 1996, I have been in love with the Golden Isles region off the coast of Georgia. My favorite island is St. Simons Island, Georgia (SSI), a beautiful resort area steeped with history and gorgeous views of the surrounding Atlantic ocean. One of the women who has been a constant in my life, and who I call one of my #BFF, Lea King-Badyna is a resident, and introduced me to the area after we met while working on the same job when I visited the area for a work assignment. It was love at first site and from then my friendship with Lea has grown as well as my love for the island.
Not long ago, Lea shared something on her Facebook feed that caught my eye about an art installation project she was overseeing in the area called the Right Whale Litter Sculpture project. I quickly contacted her and asked if I could feature it as part of my on-going blog and podcast series about how art is making a difference in the lives of people and communities. She agreed to be interviewed about it and I am absolutely thrilled to share how art is making a difference in one of my favorite getaways in the United States.
Before we get into this special project, let me share a little bit about my friend Lea.
Lea joined Keep Golden Isles Beautiful as executive director in December of 2013, leading the 38 year-old organization’s charge in the areas of litter prevention, waste reduction and recycling, community greening, water resource awareness and youth education. She was recently named “2016 executive director of the year” in the Keep Georgia Beautiful 78 affiliate network.
She attended Mercer University and graduated cum laude from Valdosta State College with a BFA in speech communications with an emphasis in public relations. Lea’s public and community relations career spans 25 years in the Golden Isles with particular emphasis in the coastal environmental realm. Spending a decade with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources/Coastal Resources Division, she organized and coordinated CoastFest, Georgia ’s largest outdoor celebration of coastal, historical, natural and cultural resources, growing the event to 90 exhibitors and over 7,000 annual attendees. Prior to joining Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, Lea worked as part of the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service and Georgia Sea Grant’s communications team, serving outposts in Brunswick, Athens, Atlanta and Savannah.
Active within the community, Lea is a founding member and past chairperson of the Glynn County 4-H Advisory Council, FaithWorks volunteer, LifeLink of Georgia and Brunswick Transplant Group organ donation awareness community educator and a YMCA Tribute to Women Leaders event volunteer.
Share a little about Keep Golden Isles Beautiful
Since 1979, Keep Golden Isles Beautiful has been a leader in helping keep the Golden Isles of Georgia clean, green and beautiful. A volunteer and community based organization, volunteers contribute 19,000+ hours annually in Keep Golden Isles Beautiful efforts, programs and initiatives.
Keep Golden Isles Beautiful is a Keep America Beautiful and Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation affiliate. A public/private partnership, Keep Golden Isles Beautiful depends on monetary, in-kind and volunteer support from individuals, businesses, local governments, civic/community organizations and schools to provide litter prevention, waste reduction, recycling, community greening, water resource and educational programming and activities to Brunswick and Glynn County citizens.
A 501(C) 3 non-profit organization, Keep Golden Isles Beautiful functions under the leadership of a volunteer Board of Directors and Advisory Board and has a full time staff of two.
Tell me about the litter sculpture installations…how did it come about? Who are the artists? What is the goal of the installation?
In 2015, Keep Golden Isles Beautiful volunteers recovered 65.6 tons of litter and 60.7 tons of recyclables from area roadways, waterways, marshes and public spaces. Seeking innovative community engagement opportunities focusing on litter prevention, the organization was awarded two grants that fund a creative project to tackle litter in a unique way. Teaming with the City of Brunswick, Glynn County, the Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau and Golden Isles Arts & Humanities Association, Keep Golden Isles Beautiful has combined litter prevention and public art access.
In January/February 2017, five unique sculptures were placed in community public spaces, each portraying a coastal creature and highlighting the effects litter has on its environment. Fabricated of metal mesh, each hollow sculpture contains internal space for trash placement, spotlighting the juxtaposition of creature versus litter.
Involving volunteers and community partners, the premise of the project was simple: CLEAN. Volunteers participated in community cleanups. CREATE. Participants filled the sculptures with the collected litter. CELEBRATE. Community members gathered to share their efforts and celebrate the sculpture installations that represent a clean and green community.
It was important to place each sculpture in a public space located beside water, to show the connection of land litter to marine debris: Coast Guard Station park, Right Whale; Overlook Park, Manatee; Mary Ross Park, Pelican; Blythe Island Regional Park, Shrimp; North Glynn Recreational Park, Blue Heron. Educational interpretative signage accompanies each sculpture to highlight the coastal critter, its importance in the Coastal Georgia environment, litter and the negative affect litter has on the coastal critter and/or its environment.
The goal of the project is to increase litter prevention awareness in a creative and unique way while simultaneously providing five new public outdoor art pieces.
The sculptures are created by Jim Swaim of Environmental Sculptures from North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The “Coastal Litter Prevention Program” sculpture project was made possible to Keep Golden Isles Beautiful under grant award #NA15NOS4190160 to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources from the Office for Coastal Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, while the “Make Art Not Litter” sculpture project was made possible by a grant from the Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation.
Do you think art can help change behavior regarding our natural resources?
Art most certainly can lead to behavior change regarding natural resources. Art can begin dialogue, and many times that is the impetus to change, dialogue.
How can people find out more about the project?
Keep Golden Isles Beautiful website: http://www.kgib.org/project/litter-prevention-sculptures/
PBS video, WJCT “Hometown” segment featuring the Litter Prevention Sculptures: http://www.wjct.tv/video/2365985994/
Environmental Sculptures: http://www.environmentalsculptures.com/