Straw Ban Inspires Art

The Malibu Times

June 6, 2018

While one man’s trash is another man’s treasure... one man’s treasure made of trash will be kept out of our ocean’s waters. That’s just one take on a beautiful new art installation—”Straws,” by James Paterson—on view at the Malibu Country Mart made of trash. Straws—a whopping 12,000 of them, all recovered from our local beaches—are the medium for the colorful art structure. It stands 15 feet tall and can be viewed from the shopping area’s lawn or even underneath it to get a closer perspective. The unveiling of this unique art piece coincided with the first day—June 1—of the City of Malibu’s ban on single use plastic straws, utensils and stirrers.

The idea to bring more attention to the straw ban creatively was dreamed up by Now Art. Now Art is a women-run public arts agency that produces, facilitates and orchestrates public art projects. Board member and Malibu resident Kinga Phillips initiated the idea, according to Now Art creative director Carmen Zella.

“It’s really important for us to match art with political awareness about the environment and a whole host of issues,” Zella explained. “There’s an unbelievable amount of straws that are littering our beaches. We’re in support of Malibu being so progressive an initiating this ban. Art helps to amplify these issues.” 

With the help of Surfrider and Shark Allies volunteers who collected the used straws at beach cleanups, installation artist and environmental activist Peterson made the spectacularly colorful project with the reclaimed material. While dreaming up “Straws,” as the piece is known, Peterson said he thought about “the puzzle of what can we do that’s dynamic and inspire people to be involved in this ban. 

“I wanted to make something beautiful that captivated people’s attention,” the artist said. “This is a huge problem in our community. I’m hoping people will question their own habits and usage, see it as an opportunity to connect the community around an art piece and to do something—have a voice.” Peterson continued, “People often say plastics are the problem, but people are the problem. It’s up to us to transform our disposable mindset. It’s not about the material being evil.”

California State Senator Henry Stern was on hand for the unveiling and to cut a ribbon made of used straws.