Visual Arts » Public

The Last Straw



A bundle of black plastic drinking straws bound tightly together like a bale of barnyard bedding represents more than clever upcycling. The visual pun proves the transformative power of art, at least for one Mass Ave restaurant.

Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, Jim Poyser created Strawbale as part of a placemaking project to educate and engage the community to support Central Indiana’s waterways.

Poyser believes some of the best ways to raise awareness involve finding “small, doable actions people can get their hands on.” The simple symmetry and concept of Strawbale make a bold, comprehendible statement. It’s easy: Drinking straws cost restaurants time and money, and as trash, the petroleum-based straws and their paper wrappers cause pollution.

How much exactly? Apparently the Ocean Conservancy reported 153,520 drinking straws and stirrer units were scooped up in the United States in one day – during the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup. In Indiana 1,359 straw/stirrers were picked up. And they continue to gunk up landfills and float out to sea, where their polypropylene plastic will remain.

Artist Jim Poyser's Strawbale gives a glimpse of how much material is wasted on objects like drinking straws. -
  • Artist Jim Poyser's Strawbale gives a glimpse of how much material is wasted on objects like drinking straws.

Poyser approached Neal Brown, chef and owner of Pizzology Craft Pizzeria and Pub on Mass Ave, and asked if he’d help. Brown stepped up. He and his staff recycled, collected and washed straws for Poyser’s art installation. As a result, Pizzology created a company-wide policy to stop handing out drinking straws to customers. If someone asks for a straw, they’re given one, but the days of doling them out automatically to customers are over.

If other restaurants follow suit – and customers do too, these small actions will create colossal waves of improvement.

Strawbale is among two other installations, including one by a kinetic sculptor David Landis and a large motion-sensor boom box, Flow, by Wil Marques.

For a look at these artists and their works, check out the video below.

Projects and plans for creative placemaking on Indy’s waterways are supported by a grant from The Kresge Foundation and Central Indiana Community Foundation.

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