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Artist Sean Connaughty Works to Improve Water Quality in Lake Hiawatha

October 3, 2016

Sean Connaughty holding trash from Lake Hiawatha
Artist turned activist Sean Connaughty says that littering is an equal opportunity problem that crosses all lines – ethnic, socio-economic, age, and gender – and profoundly affects urban lake water quality.

He should know. Since 2013, this art professor at the University of Minnesota has been collecting garbage from one of the Twin Cities' most affected lakes: Lake Hiawatha in South Minneapolis. Now, more than 150 bags of garbage later, the piles of rubber duckies, pens, swimming goggles, aerosol cans, and other gunky ephemera are a testimony to human habits, carefully counted and categorized.

Connaughty sorts through a pile of trash he collected from Lake Hiawatha.

Displayed as an art exhibit in 2015 at the Sandbox Gallery, the evidence of Connaughty's diligence has caused him to consider himself an "archeologist from the future."

He might not have earned that distinction if he hadn't begun inspecting Lake Hiawatha more closely as the potential site for the launch of his "Ark of the Anthropecene" – a human scale floating biosphere he'd created to represent this geologic timeframe in which humans have had the most profound effect on the climate and environment.


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