Throughout history, art has been used to help educate the public about pressing social and environmental issues while also providing a creative escape. Continuing in that tradition, experiential designer Valentino Vettori—together with twelve leading environmental artists—has created an immersive experience that sends an important message about the state of our planet. Arcadia Earth is a sprawling exhibition in New York City that has transformed 15 rooms into powerful art installations that touch on important topics like the state of the ocean and plastic pollution.
Visitors to the 15,000-square-foot space are invited to dive into environments that highlight everything from the dangers that fishing nets pose to wildlife to our use of plastic bags. Each artist has used upcycled materials and reusable elements in the creation of their artwork in the spirit of the topics discussed. Technological tools like augmented reality, virtual reality, projection mapping, and interactive environments enhance the experience, bringing visitors closer to the truth about what’s happening in our oceans.
Highlights include Cindy Pease Roe’s giant suspended jellyfish. Dangling like luminous chandeliers, they represent the reality that jellyfish are one of the few sea creatures that can survive our polluted waters. Pease Roe typically works with marine debris and aims to keep her art playful and engaging, while still informative. Brooklyn-based artist Basia Goszczynska used her space to show just how many plastic bags we really use. Her Rainbow Cave is formed from 44,000 salvaged plastic bags, which represent the amount used by one New Yorker every minute.
The installations can’t help but provoke a reaction from visitors. Vacillating from marveling at the artwork to ruminating on the horror that they represent, these emotional responses are a fundamental part of helping Arcadia Earth meet its educational goal. Beyond the colorful lights and selfie-ready settings, there’s a deep and profound message to be received by those who are open to learning.
Arcadia Earth runs until January 2020 and is located at 718 Broadway in New York City. Tickets are available for purchase online, with proceeds going to the exhibition’s charitable partner Oceanic Global. In addition, one tree will be planted for each ticket sold.