On a sunny, November afternoon, artist Nico Cathcart held a tiny drawing up against a massive, blank backdrop. It was her way of spotting the precise place to add vibrant color to a symbolic mural outside the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen.
“This piece is directly inspired by its location,” Cathcart explained.
Plastic Tides surrounds the new recycling center in the parking lot. The mural shows a colorful school of sunfish native to the James River. Initially, it appears the fish line up to show a clean river, but once past the first fence, the rest of the long wall reveals a polluted river filled with plastic bottles and soda rings.
“I subscribe to the thought that murals should really say something,” said Cathcart. “This artwork is meant to highlight the importance of recycling and point attention to the crisis facing our waterways.”
Cathcart did most of the painting but young people from the center’s outreach programs, including the James River Juvenile Detention Center, also worked on the project. The mural is painted on two walls, standing 8-feet tall and spanning 56 feet.
“The earth without art is just ‘eh,” explained Cultural Arts Center President K Alferio. “This project is the perfect way for us to demonstrate the importance of looking at the art and beauty in nature and protecting it.”
Cathcart is a Canadian artist who now lives in Richmond. She was among 10 artists who submitted proposals for the project. Cathcart strives to discuss feminism and conservation in her highly colorful works. Her art can be found in many cities across the country including Ithaca and Rochester, N.Y.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Columbus, Ohio.
“This pollution starts in our rivers,” she added. “It’s up to all of us to make the necessary changes to save the wildlife that inhabits our local waters.”