027: Mellon DisTIL fellow Robin Frohardt transforms plastic into thought-provoking art

Do you ever take stock of all plastic you use? Do you think about all the plastic that surrounds you every day? Artist Robin Frohardt does–a lot. Robin has spent her Andrew W. Mellon DisTIL fellowship at Carolina Performing Arts making art out of and about plastic, and working with faculty, staff, and students on plastic-related projects across disciplines. From The Plastic Bag Store to Plastic Archaeology to Trash Talk and the Plastic Time Machine, artist Robin Frohardt has created humorous and thought-provoking art from that ubiquitous everlasting material.

Robin Frohardt  is an award-winning artist, puppet designer and director. Her  original play “The Pigeoning” hailed by the New York Times as  “a tender,  fantastical symphony of the imagination,”  debuted in 2013 and continues to tour at home and abroad and has been translated into German, Greek, Arabic and Turkish.  In 2016 she received  a Creative Capital Award for her new work  “The Plastic Bag Store”  an installation and performance that takes place in a fake grocery store in a real storefront and addresses the long term impact of disposable plastic packaging. She is currently developing the work through a Mellon DisTIL Fellowship at Carolina Performing Arts at UNC. She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and the first artist in Residence at Olson Kundig a renown design and architecture firm in Seattle.  Robin Frohardt has recently been named a Guggenheim Fellow.


Plasticon: A Sustainability Festival

This Saturday, April 21 from 2-5pm at Current ArtSpace + Studio in Chapel Hill, hosted by Carolina Performing Arts

Come see–and even participate in making!–Robin Frohardt’s remarkable art, and experience all of the creativity that the UNC and Chapel Hill community has brought to issues of sustainability and consumption. PLASTICON is free and open to the public. It will occur inside and outside the performance space. Enjoy a day both thought-provoking and fun, and bask in the spring sunshine! Kids welcome!

2 PM : Plastic Fair
– Eat free food courtesy of Chapel Hill eateries that depend on sustainable, locally-based practices
– Explore info tables, interactive activities, artistic work, and research displays hosted by UNC and local art and environmental groups
– Experience Robin’s own work, including a Dumpster Monster, a Plastic Time Machine, a Plastic Museum Display, and more!

3:45 PM: Plastic Presentations
Join Robin, art history professor Vicky Rovine, and anthropolgy professors Anna Agbie-Davies and Eric Deetz for a Pecha Kucha-style presentation of their plastic-based projects

4:45 PM: Screening of A Plastic Ocean (22 min)
The documentary film will be followed by a brief discussion between Robin and environmental experts moderated by public health professor Courtney Woods.

Participants include Compost Now, EcoReps, Design for America, Kay Blada Recycling, Three Zeroes, Office of Sustainability, Kidzu, Edible Garden, Hope Garden, and the Center for the Study of the American South.


This episode is brought to you by the Soapboxers, the official patrons of the Artist Soapbox. If you like these episodes and want more, get on the Soapbox! Podcast recorded at Current ArtSpace + Studio, Chapel Hill, NC.

Time break-down:

[0:00] Episode intro, info about Plasticon, the Mellon DisTIL fellowship and Robin’s bio.

[2:38] Robin’s interest in plastic: When and why did it begin?


[6:55] Thanks to this interview, Tamara is now obsessed with plastic. How has Robin’s relationship to plastic changed over time? How does she think about it now? The responsibility, impossibility, and humor that plastic can inspire. The hunt for the rarest plastic bags! “What I’m trying to do is tell a good story.”

[12:22] What projects has Robin worked on with UNC faculty thru the DisTIL fellowship?

Plastic Archaeology

Plastic Archaeolgy on Instagram

[17:30] How has Robin’s perspective as an artist enrich the work of faculty? How has her work been enriched by the knowledge and perspectives of UNC faculty?

[21:00] Plastic Time Machine, Trash Talk, Plasticon

[24:55] What is Robin most excited about for Plasticon? (Interactivity!)

[26:13] What has it been like to work on projects at UNC over 3 semesters?

[28:23] What is Robin’s dream collaborative fellowship? (She’s experiencing it right now!)

[29:48] What’s next for Robin? And P.S. she just won a Guggenheim fellowship. 🙂

[31:14] Why has this program captured so many people’s attention and imagination?

[33:24] Thank you and sign-off

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