The Impact of The Plastic Bag Store in LA

When CAP UCLA commissioned and screened Plastic Bag Store: The Film in April, we had no way of knowing that it would inspire people to come together to bring the full installation to Los Angeles. But it did! More than 3,000 people attended The Plastic Bag Store installation and immersive experience during its two-week run in the downtown arts district. The feedback from all has been tremendous and affirming:

Environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. hailed it as “One of the most original and thought-provoking art installations I have ever witnessed.”

Patron Milo Runkle described it as “Compelling, stunning, interesting, creative, humorous, fun, and provocative.”

The first of many challenges facing the project was raising funds to get it to Los Angeles from Australia and find a suitable venue in less than three months’ time. A downtown warehouse in the Arts District, donated by Yuval Bar-Zemer, proved to be the perfect physical space. The generous assistance of Bar-Zemer and his team, in coordination with our production staff and Pomegranate Arts, helped transform the venue from an empty warehouse into a unique grocery store within a couple of weeks.

While the installation was the centerpiece of the project, CAP UCLA partnered with several local cultural organizations to host ancillary programs and events. Institute of Contemporary Art, LAArt At The Rendon and the Skirball Cultural Center presented short films, installations and special workshops that helped build public awareness about the environmental impact of single use plastics. Kicking off the effort was a screening of Plastic Bag Store: The Film at the recently reopened Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, who hosted a discussion afterward with Aquarium CEO Peter Karevia, artist Robin Frohardt and environmental activist and lifeguard Devon Beebe.

CAP UCLA also sought the assistance of leading environmental powerhouses Plastic Pollution CoalitionFriends of the LA RiverUCLA’s Laboratory for Environmental Narrative Strategies (LENS) and UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability (IoES) to help to bring this project to the attention of the environmental community. They were also invaluable in raising awareness of the plastic pollution crisis and encouraging visitors to become more involved in conservation efforts.

Many of these organizations also participated in the Plastic Pollution Awareness Night we co-presented with UCLA’s IoES, Government and Community Relations and Sustainable L.A. Grand Challenge. Speakers included L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz; Director of Energy, Water & Waste at the Office of Mayor Garcetti Rebecca Rasmussen; LENS’ Ursula Heise; Daniel Coffee of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation; UCLA Chief Sustainability officer Nurit Katz as the moderator; artist Robin Frohardt; and environmental activists Emily Parker of Heal the Bay and Plastic Pollution Coalition co-founder Dianna Cohen.

“Robin Frohardt’s Plastic Bag Store accomplishes what only art can do,” said Cohen. “Reach into our minds, our hearts, our guts and make us feel, think and question our use of ‘plastic.’ What is the true cost of our ‘single-use throwaway culture’ and marketed ‘convenience’? And is this the legacy that we wish to hand down to future generations?’”

After months of lockdown, students from the Fernando Pullman Community Arts Center were able to attend one of the immersive experiences. “We finally welcomed students in-person!” said Meryl Friedman, Director of Education and Special Initiatives. “Many thanks for being the first. You were such a great audience and your curiosity and enthusiasm were a ray of sunshine after months of clouds.” CAP UCLA also hosted students from Roosevelt and Hernandez High School, who are interning with the Natural History Museum, courtesy of contributing patron Vera Campbell, who also supported the exhibition.

“Bringing this project to Los Angeles with creative producers Pomegranate Arts has taken years of advocacy and effort, said CAP UCLA Executive and Artistic Director Kristy Edmunds. “There were multiple challenges to overcome and everyone at CAP UCLA came together at every single turn to ensure that we would succeed. The Plastic Bag Store is not only a tremendous creative achievement by the artist and her team, but in L.A. it is also an enduring example of the collaborative impact a creative community can have by linking arms in order to make something extraordinary happen. I think this exact approach can counter the ‘foreverness of plastic,’ and generate a wave of essential change – spur a recovery, and keep us connected to what is most essential. In the seemingly short span of just twelve days – Robin’s work has left an indelible mark on L.A.”

After all of the above, we’re going to take a breather. We’ll be back with more updates on August 15th. Here’s our Environmental Toolkit to help you finish Plastic Free July strong!

While CAP UCLA is committed to presenting performances with community impact, they require significant resources to produce. Support advocacy driven performing arts with a gift to CAP UCLA today!