Students at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith are utilizing the power of art to promote sustainability and environmental responsibility.


The UAFS Green Team and the UAFS Art Club partnered with 64.6 Downtown and The Unexpected art movement to present an immersive art installation at Bastion Art Gallery in an effort to shed light on the severe environmental impact of single-use plastic.


“Environmental stewardship is vital to the preservation of resources for present and future generations,” said Dr. Edward Serna, interim chancellor of UAFS. “As an institution of higher learning, our mission is to be proactive instead of reactive to the needs of our community and our world. The students who championed this project embody the spirit of UAFS, reaching beyond our campus walls and engaging with the community to raise awareness of global issues.”


The installation, titled “Just A Bottle in the Ocean,” features an underwater simulation made entirely of discarded plastic bottles. Nearly 1,000 plastic bottles were collected in bins on campus and downtown in just over a semester.


According to a consumer market research report by Euromonitor International, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute internationally with less than half of those bottles ending up in recycling facilities. In the United States, 50 billion plastic water bottles were used in 2016 with just 23 percent reaching recycling centers.


“This project is very important to me because it highlights the copious amounts of single-use plastic waste produced by our daily habits,” explained Samantha Pham, a UAFS Green Team student. “I’m really hoping that this project sparks some inspiration in our local community so people choose to use reusable water bottles rather than continuing to buy bottled water. We hope the water bottle refill stations that we have installed around campus will get a lot more use as well.”


“Bringing awareness to pollution and plastic waste is so important,” added Aleah Cherry, UAFS Art Club president. “People don’t consider where their two-liter bottles go or the consequences of not recycling. We have had a lot of fun with this collaboration and hope to bring a new life to the bottles while reminding people just how much plastic we waste.”


Cherry also noted that local artist and UAFS employee Carl Hepler assisted the Art Club in constructing the installation.


The opening reception will be held from 5-7 p.m. Friday, April 5, at the Bastion Gallery, located at 914 Garrison Ave. in Fort Smith. The exhibit will remain on display at the Bastion Gallery through April with viewing hours from 1-6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.