Look What Is Blooming
In First Ward
By: Jack Lunstroth
We are well into spring and the flowers are beginning to bloom and display their vibrant colors, but there is one huge flower bed that has been blooming since fall of 2016 and continues to bloom in First Ward. This is not any ordinary bed of flowers. This bed of flowers lies on Houston Avenue between Edwards Street and Bingham Street, in front of the closed Brock Elementary School. It is made up of thousands of recycled water bottles that were likely headed for a landfill or ocean. Carol Simon, the creator of the project, says, “I wanted to make something beautiful, out of something ugly.” Thus she put her idea into action: a 150-foot fence covered with spray painted water bottles cut into different designs and placed on mesh wiring fence that is connected to the fence outside the school. Simon views the project as a way to get the community involved in the art world, while also saving the environment and beautifying the neighborhood of First Ward.
Carol Simon, a self-taught artist who found art once her two daughters left for college has done the majority of her work at her studio in The Silos of Sawyer in First Ward over the past four years. Even though most of her work involves Plexiglas and alcohol inks that form free flowing works of art, she has been incorporating different recycled materials in her work for years. In May 2015, she completed her first piece using recycled material when she made a dress for a mannequin made out of Coca-Cola cans. She then went on to make a dress out of beer and wine bottles. Simon first used recycled water bottles as a medium in January 2016, when she created an orb of spray painted water bottles; but the idea for the project did not come until she took a trip with her daughter, Stephanie, to the Czech Republic.
When visiting Prague, they visited the John Lennon Wall. That partition that in the late 1980s became a site for people to express themselves in whichever way they pleased, as a result, it changes daily. When Simon saw this she was inspired to make something similar in Houston that would last for years upon years. She envisioned an art project that the community could contribute to and be a part of. The project as she envisioned would be a long wall of recycled, spray-painted, cut water bottles; a garden that would never die.
Once she returned to the states in October, Simon contacted the First Ward Civic Council and shared her idea with them. They loved it and knew of the perfect spot to place such an installation so the general public could see it and that is where it lies and continues to bloom every day. After giving her the go ahead, Simon started getting to work. She knew she did not want to make this into a solo art project, so she immediately started talking to different companies around the city to see if they’d like to help out. She now partners with a Lexus dealership, Jerry’s Artarama, and others. Additionally, many partners help collect water bottles for the project. Besides collecting water bottles, Simon also wanted the community to participate in constructing the fence. Although it took a while, some additional publicity resulted in the community engagement she envisioned.
A group of 250 teenagers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from all over Houston and their leaders came by her studio one Saturday and helped spray paint and cut painted bottles for several hours. Simon says, “It was a huge help and helped moved the project along”. She then had a group of kids and their parents help cut some bottles and put them into the fence on Earth Day. This is not suggesting that the work is complete. She still welcomes people coming by and helping out in whatever way they can. To complete such as massive project she has designated project work days the second Saturday of every month from 10 A.M. to 12 A.M., immediately preceding Second Saturday at the Silos and neighboring studios. She also has an open studio the fourth Wednesday of every month at 8 P.M., but she is frequently at her studio and would welcome additional help from the community. Her contact information will be posted below.
In 2016, Simon could only dream of such a project coming together and being built, but now on the brink of summer, her dream is coming alive. She hopes that the flowerbed will have bloomed by the end of this year.
If you would like to help out, you can contact Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you would like to get more information on the project you can visit the First Ward is Blooming FaceBook page.