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By Marianne Ruggiero
Coordinator of Family Programs at The RISD Museum

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Artists nowadays choose to work with many different manmade materials. Why do many opt for Styrofoam, of all things? Hold a cup in your hand, and you’ll see it’s light as air. Leave the cup on your kitchen counter and you might see your kids, later in the day, decorating it, looking for additional cups to make a tower, or playing “telephone.” Grownups create with Styrofoam as well, a lightweight, inexpensive material. A case in point is the current show at The RISD Museum: “Styrofoam: From Industrial Invention to Artistic Transformation.” The show brings together unusually compelling art works by major contemporary artists all made of, you guessed it, Styrofoam. The fact that the works exhibit such a variety of interesting forms and textures is tribute to the fact that Styrofoam can be easily reworked. Some of the artists whose work is on view simply create with found pieces of Styrofoam. Tony Feher, for example, just happened upon the Styrofoam “bricks” that make up his witty Blue Tower.

Styrofoam, as we all know, doesn’t biodegrade like paper or plastic, so using cast-off pieces of it to create art, or simply making art objects of lasting value with it may be one of its appealing qualities to many artists. Kids love to create with Styrofoam as well, and they’ll have plenty of opportunities to discover and make imaginative art with this material at The RISD Museum’s June 28 Free-For-All Saturday program, STYROWORLD. At 1 pm, Rhode Island’s own Big Nazo puppet creatures will animate the day’s program with their outlandish costumes and zany antics on the Museum’s front lawn.

Location: RISD Museum, 224 Benefit Street, Providence, RI. (directions)
Time: 11AM-4PM.
Cost: Free
Information: contact Marianne Ruggiero at 401-454-6674 or follow the link above.

Illustration: Tony Feher, Blue Tower, 1997, Collection of Eileen and Michael Cohen, NY courtesy of D’Amelio Terras, NY and Pace Wildenstein, NY

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  • Can you believe I’ve met more than a few styro-biters? And one styro-eater, my son Will when he was an infant crawling around on the floor after his sister’s birthday which featured a cake (real) surrounded by a “winter wonderland” made of hundreds of tiny little styro-balls. He apparently decided the snow that had dropped onto the carpet was good enough to eat, and I panicked when I saw him stuff a fistful of it into his mouth. The fistful and more came out intact in that night’s diaper with no repercussions, at least I don’t think so. At 22, he’s a healthy guy who lectures me about not buying things made of styrofoam. Btw, that amount of styrene that actually migrates into your coffee at Allie’s (N. Kingstown I think) is something like .025% they say.

  • I like to bite styrofoam. The only place I know that serves coffee in styrofoam cups now is Allie’s Donuts in…what is that? Wickford?