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Striking boom in visitors at Palmer Museum of Art after impact of Plastic Entanglements
The exhibition includes 60 works by 30 renowned, contemporary artists from all over the globe.

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA.- Since the opening of the dynamic Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials eight weeks ago at the Palmer Museum of Art, attendance to the museum has ballooned by as much as 32%. The record-breaking visitor numbers – more than 1,000 per week, which is hundreds more than the usual average - have soared as people of all ages come to explore the innovative, interdisciplinary exhibition that examines humanity’s past, present, and future relationship to plastic.

“When attendance is up, engagement is up,” said Erin Coe, Director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “The numbers also reflect the extent to which the exhibition topic, and its message of sustainability, has resonated with our audiences, both old and new alike.”

The Palmer typically welcomes around 35,000 visitors each year and averages 8,750 per quarter, but this year – due to the thought-provoking exhibition and how it illustrates modern society’s environmental, aesthetic, and technological involvement with plastics – the museum had already surpassed this mark. With another two months to go before it closes, Plastic Entanglements will likely become one of the most-visited exhibitions in the museum’s history.

Organized by the Palmer Museum of Art, Plastic Entanglements investigates the complex story of plastic by bringing together sixty inventive works by thirty contemporary artists from across the globe. Unfolding in three sections, the show examines and questions society’s historical, modern, and prospective bond with plastic. It begins with “the archive” that plastic creates (experienced as collections of waste mined and used by the artists in the show); then it moves to depict “the entangled present” and the paradoxes of plastic’s seductive materiality, pervasiveness, and environmental degradation; and it concludes with the “speculative futures” of the material, asking what biological and technological consequences plastic may impact for life to come.

Joe Quinn, a Penn State alumnus in biochemistry (’82), is one of the many new visitors to Plastic Entanglements. Quinn brought his whole family to see the exhibition while visiting the area.

“Not knowing quite what to expect beforehand, I spent a great deal of time experiencing this fascinating display of talent and ingenuity by artists who employ the ubiquitous plastic stuff of every day,” he said. Although the exhibit reinforces a general awareness of the beneficial applications of plastics, Quinn emerged with a heightened awareness of the impact that plastics have had, and continue to have, on the earth's complex and fragile ecosystems. “As with other engrossing works, the appreciation of this exceptional exhibition has provided a good deal of enjoyment and personal enrichment; however, the Plastic Entanglements experience has also led me to a better awareness of the criticality of environmental stewardship and has inspired constructive improvements in my personal practices related to selection, use, and recycling of materials.”

A related exhibition, Gravity Schmavity: Repurposed Plastic Sculptures by Aurora Robson, will open at The Arboretum at Penn State on June 2. Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the outdoor exhibition in the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens will spotlight new work by Aurora Robson, a multimedia artist wellknown for her transformative, upcycled three-dimensional objects. Jointly organized by the Palmer and The Arboretum, the exhibition will feature works made from industrial plastic culled from Penn State’s industrial waste and recycling stream and will be on view through October 29.

Plastic Entanglements closes on June 17 before moving on for a national tour to three additional venues including the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon; Smith College Museum of Art; and the Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, where the exhibition closes in January 2020.

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