CORNELIUS —  To complete the next art installation at the Cornelius Arts Center, residents need to bring in some of their trash.

Durham-based artist Bryant Holsenbeck, who also seeks the help of volunteers, will create a piece of art at the center using jar lids and bottle caps to be displayed through April. Cornelius town’s Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture hosts a multitude of events to coincide with Earth Day, including a film screening of “Play Again” and children’s art activity April 25. Holsenbeck’s work was chosen as it emphasizes the message of being more environmentally friendly.

“While researching North Carolina-based environmental artists, I came across Bryant's work,” said Jen Crickenberger, manager of the Cornelius Arts Center. “I was not only impressed with the physical construction of her installations; I also appreciated the motivation behind  the work to raise awareness and offer often discarded items a new life as traveling pieces of art.”

Holsenbeck became an artist just over a decade ago. She started as a basketmaker, but delved into environmental issues by using her work as a documentation of the amount of “stuff” Americans use once and throw away. On her website, Holsenbeck said because the United States has room to hide waste and the money to buy more, people are blind to what they are doing. She has found a way to transform that trash to create items found in nature, including bears, birds and foxes.

“Bryant's work reminds viewers that discarding small items, like bottle caps, can cause major environmental issues,” Crickenberger said. “This exhibit demonstrates the power of upcycled art as one solution to these problems. My hope is that viewers will walk away with a new appreciation for environmental art and a better understanding of the environmental issues we face today. Maybe it will inspire others to upcycle their own trash into a beautiful piece of art.”

Holsenbeck wants residents to get involved and help her make her next installation of a mandala at the Cornelius Arts Center.

A symbol from Hinduism and Buddhism representing the universe and cosmos, mandalas are geometric patterns usually encompassing a square with four gates and a circle center point.

Holsenbeck has made several of these large-scale installations using more than 100,000 caps and lids. She relies on the community to complete it. Not only does it allow people to get involved and learn more about the process, Holsenbeck said she needs help simply because of the number of small pieces it entails. She prefers people older than 10 to volunteer, Holsenbeck added.

“I love adults who come because I don’t think learning about the environment should be just for kids,” Holsenbeck said. “Adults are growing and just like kids, they are learning. I’m learning all of the time.”

For example, she used to make birds out of shredded credit cards until she discovered the glue was toxic. While she isn't sure her work will change anyone's life, her overall aim is make people more aware, she said. 

Hoslenbeck said she always liked nature and making things, but doesn't know what propelled her to combine her interests. But she is grateful for communities like Cornelius who are putting more of a focus on the environment. She hopes that her art may speak louder than simply a fact sheet because, she said, many people are “bored by the numbers.”

“I’m just one of a million people trying to do that,” she said. “I can’t tell you want makes a difference. I do what I do because I’m inspired to do it.” 


Want to help? Residents are asked to donate colorful and metal bottle caps and lids, which will be used in an upcoming installation by artist Bryant Holsenbeck. Items can be dropped off 9 a.m.-noon. Feb. 28 and March 1 at the Cornelius Arts Center, 19725 Oak St. Volunteers are needed March 4-6 to help Holsenbeck put the installation together. Call 704-896-8823 to make an appointment. A reception to see the mandala and meet Holsenbeck is scheduled for 6:30-9 p.m. March 7 at the Cornelius Arts Center, though the installation is available for viewing during arts center hours throughout April.