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One Fish's Journey from Transfer Station to Boston Festival and Beyond

Some local artists gave life to a giant fish at the Wayland Transfer Station ... but that pond was just too small.

"In the beginning ..." there were boxes upon boxes of discarded CDs.

Those CDs posed an artistic dilemma for Wayland resident Dan Balter and his friend and collaborator Peter Vazquez, the founders of the eco-art organization Fireseed Arts. They, along with artist Juan Flores, took a look at the more than 6,000 CDs and thought, "fish scales."

And so began a project at the , where Fireseed Arts operates an designed to show transfer station visitors the artistic opportunities of their "trash."

The projects developed through the program find homes in a wide variety of places, but this fish was destined from the beginning for a very large stage: the Boston GreenFest on City Hall Plaza.

Over the course of the next several weeks, the artists gathered materials from the Wayland Transfer Station and a 26-foot fish began to emerge, quite literally, from the rubble.

Balter explained that, in addition to the 6,000 CDs that created the fish's reflective scales, the body of the fish is built of metal bed frames, steel conduit, lawn mower handles and metal of all kinds.

"Everything we needed showed up just in time," Balter said. "We set ourselves a limitation to spur creativity and to use only the materials at hand. All repurposed or recycled materials."

The mishmash of materials continued as the artists used garden stakes to form the dorsel fin, a trashcan liner for the mouth ("the perfect fish pucker"), and recycled shopping bags and jewel cases for the fins and tail, among many other items.

Balter wrote the following in an email:

"The parts of the fish tell a story. Not only are they made from recycled materials, each material has it’s own story to tell. The mouth is made from an old plastic wastebasket. What we feed into our rivers goes into our fish and eventually into ourselves. The scales, made from over 6,000 CDs appear perfectly as the scales of the fish from the distance with intense rainbow colors gleaming in the sun. Step closer and you see yourself reflected in each cell of the fish. You are one with the fish.The eyes are made from an old drum. The drum is the first instrument giving this fish primal vision. Music, rhythm is one of the best tools we have for connecting with our primal self and destroying the conditioned idea of a dichotomy between nature and us. The fins and tail, the steering mechanisms of the fish are made from recycled shopping bags. Is consumerism the guiding principle in all of our decisions?"

Even with great vision, as the GreenFest drew near, the artists found themselves lacking the materials needed to finish sculpting the fish's head.

"A week before our debut at Boston GreenFest, we had no cladding for the head but we were confident something would show up," Balter said. "We waited, and days before, aluminum step flashing showed up along with used lithographic plates waiting to be recycled from a printer we knew. All of which we used gladly for the face."

So lots of luck and creativity came together in order to get the sculpture constructed, but once complete, the artists had another problem: Their 26-foot long fish was, well, land-locked.

Balter said that they measured the fish the day before its scheduled transport to City Hall Plaza and found it too large for the truck they had scheduled.

"Our sponsors at Isaac's Moving and Storage came through with a longer truck, the largest in the fleet, and a 54-foot long trailer with enough height clearance to carry the Big Fish," Balter said.

And so the fish "swam" east, straight to the Boston GreenFest, where it enjoyed the curious looks and appreciative admiration of GreenFest visitors.

"Interestingly, schools were particularly interested, seeing how the fish had a fantastic message and response from the children," Balter said.

He said the artists have received requests to showcase the sculpture at several other festivals throughout September and have even received offers to show it in Canada, North Carolina and Florida -- all possibilities given their partnership with Isaac's Moving and Storage.

"The need we have now is for additional sponsors to support the Big Fish and future projects at the transfer station," Balter said. "Anyone interested should contact us. Locally, Carlos Mendez of led the charge and showed his commitment to the arts and the environment with a founder’s sponsorship. Other local businesses helped."

People can help in another way, too: Name the fish. Fireseed Arts is wrapping up a naming contest it's been hosting on its page on Facebook. The person proposing the winning name will receive a prize from Viva Mexican Grill.

Michael Lowery August 29, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Great story & great photos! Thanks.
Michael August 29, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Dan Balter is a leader in the community to help preserve our environment and improve our knowledge of how we impact it on a daily basis. His environmental art is a great way to teach us. The fish is amazing. Check out his other work at http://www.fireseedarts.com/FireSeed_Arts/FireSeed.html Wayland is very fortunate to have Dan as a member of its community!
Mara Rest August 29, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Great article, and this is truly an amazing project! Cheers to VIVA for supporting the Arts.
Nancy Zare August 29, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I saw the Fish while under construction and again at Green Fest. Very impressive and engaging. That the "right" stuff arrived as needed adds to its mystique. Thank you FireSeeds Art for touching us aesthetically and bringing out the inner "green".
Jon August 30, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Great article, and cool use of re-purposed materials. Keep it up, Fireseed!

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