An art project installation by area grade school students will not only beautify a part of Southern Illinois University’s campus lake — it may also have an ecological impact.
On an overcast and misty Saturday morning earlier this month, students from Anna Davis’ private art classes gathered to float nine “lily pads” in a nook of the water near the lake’s boat docks. It’s a project that stems from house cleaning and inspiration from overseas. Each of the lily pads was made up of discarded compact discs.
“This summer we were cleaning our house and we don’t use CDs anymore, so I was trying to figure out what to do with them, especially as some sort of art project for the kids,” Davis said.
An internet search led to an artist in the United Kingdom named Bruce Munro, who had created several floating lily pad projects featuring recycled CDs.
Davis, who had already planned a lesson on French artist’s Claude Monet’s series of water lilies oil paintings, latched onto the idea and contacted Munro.
“He quickly and enthusiastically responded that he would love for us to create a similar installation and he sent each of my students a coffee table book of his work,” Davis said. “He said that he would love for my art students to do something similar and to see photos when it was finished.”
Davis’ students worked on the project during their weekly art classes in Carbondale, gathering unwanted CDs and explored everything from what sort of glue to use to how to anchor the completed lily pads in place. The group eventually settled on PVC pipe and stainless steel for the anchor weights and a non-toxic glue to adhere the CDs to neoprene foam.
Together, the students completed nine of the CD lily pads, each about three feet across and using more than 60 discs. They placed the completed projects in Campus Lake under the direction of Jared King, campus recreation coordinator for aquatics at SIU.
“There’s really two ideas here,” King explained. “Anna originally came to me with a beautification project, just something cool to show off to the local community and something for students to gravitate to, but I was also interested in seeing some of the impacts on the algal blooms in the area.”
King said he is hoping as the sunlight reflects off of the silver side of the CDs, the effect will be to lower the ambient water temperature, reducing the algae blooms — a rapid growth of microscopic algae or cyanobacteria in the water which leads to the formation of scum on the water’s surface accompanied by an odor.
“That’s a big thing for our lake and something we’re trying to combat here, so I’m pretty excited about this,” King said. “It is strictly going to be a correlation experiment to see if there is a measurable difference.”
One of the art club members, Jude Triplett, 11, of Carbondale, was assigned to assist adults with floating the lily pads in the lake. Specifically, it was his job to tie the anchor cords to weights and to the bottom side of the structures.
“It was kind of easy because my grandma had bought me a knot book so I had studied knots for a long time,” he said. “Today I was helping to tie the knots while I was on the boat and that was harder because the boat was rocking side-to-side.”
Triplett said he enjoyed the creation and installation of the lily pads.
“This was a really fun project,” he said.