Sculptor and Visual Artist Willie Cole Brings The Newark Bottle Project To Life

Jul 18, 2019

The Newark Arts Council invited artist Willie Cole to do his magic
Credit Willie Cole for WBGO

Award-winning contemporary American Sculptor, conceptual and visual artist, painter and printer Willie Cole was born in Newark but his artwork is loved worldwide. 

Cole, who now lives in Mine Hill, New Jersey and part-time in Los Angeles, is excited about his latest project that will eventually end up in a Newark school.  He'll be using 16 and 8 ounce water bottles to create a 30-foot kid sculpture.  It's not the first time he used water bottles in an artistic way.

"Now that Newark is in a water crisis, I've seemed to have got the attention of City Hall and the Newark Arts Council and they invited me to do a project in the city of Newark with the assistance of some of the school children."

Cole recently came into WBGO to speak with News Director Doug Doyle.  What does Cole want people to think when the sculpture is completed?

"They'll think about the amount of water bottles that are used in the city.  They'll think about the amount of water bottles that are discarded everyday.  They'll think about all the light that the plastic reflects.  That's my favorite part.  And they'll think about the environment in general." 

Willie Cole and WBGO News Director Doug Doyle
Credit Alexandra Hill for WBGO News

The Arts High School graduate is known for using and transforming ordinary and domestic objects into powerful works of art.  Some of his most famous pieces are made from irons, ironing boards, high-heeled shoes, hair dryers and bicycle parts.

"The first thing that stands out is that I use a single object at a time and kind of multiply it.  I tell myself that I create the same way nature does by taking a single cell and multiplying it."

Cole loves listening to jazz music when doing his masterpieces.  He created some early logos, bumper stickers and graphic design work for WBGO in the late 7o's.

"I make a big connection to myself and jazz.  I was friends with Chris White, he was a bass player for Dizzy Gillespie and he said to me once that improvisation is the reordering of learned information.  That's what I do in my art."   

Registration for organizations, schools or individuals participating in the Willie Cole Water Bottle Project begins in September 2019 and runs through November.

The Urban League's ThriftWORKS has been assisting in distributing 33-gallon recycling bags to community members and school groups.  The bags will be distributed from 509 Central Avenue in Newark, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.

People are not supposed to drop off water bottles at the thrift-store until they receive a September pickup date.
 For more information about the project and registration you can go to the Newark Arts website at https://newarkarts.org/williecoleproject/ 

Click above to hear the entire conversation between WBGO News Director Doug Doyle and Willie Cole.