“I’ve always been interested in art as a means of social impact—how art can be used as a tool for change”
— Megan Heeres
Megan Heeres has always been interested in how materials respond, transform and then create art. So when she heard that youth from the Student Conservation Association were removing invasive weeds in Detroit it got her thinking, “I wonder what we can do with that?”
She decided she wanted to try using the invasive weeds to make paper. Detroit is a very community-centric city so Megan started by doing a lot of listening. She asked the youth, “If you teach me to remove these plants, can I do a paper-making workshop with you?”
After gauging participant interest, she tried her first workshop with invasive honeysuckle. Not only did it make beautiful paper, the young people were very engaged in the process. Soon, Megan had workshops popping up all over the city.
Not only does paper making make use of materials that would otherwise be discarded, it also makes art accessible to people who may not have an art background. There's an extremely low barrier to entry, and allows people to create something tangible.
She recently transformed Simone DeSousa Gallery in Detroit into a paper making space. She invited groups in the neighborhood into the gallery, turning it in to more of a community space and used the process and the materials to elicit conversations.
She then used the paper from the gallery workshop to make a collaborative installation. The goal was to make an installation that could be returned to the earth — the paper will be used as mulch for organic farmers in the city.
Megan's workshops bring together conservation, art, and community into a massive recycling project. She has two main goals: first, to raise awareness about invasive species and get people to think about the environment in a different way; and second, to spread art education and appreciation among participants.
Photo credit: Eric Wheeler