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Fine Art PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

“Green Art” Steals the Show at Highland Park Art Festival

Environmentally-friendly art is the talk of the town in Highland Park, NJ, following Main Street Highland Park’s fourth annual Arts in the Park art festival.

The Sept. 21 festival featured a “Green Art” category for the second straight year. Some of the most original pieces at the festival were entered into the category, including Lisa Bagwell’s “Sitting Man,” a half-size human body made of discarded, non-recyclable plastics, coffee cups, bottle caps and peanut containers, and Fred Cole’s “Gotta Hand it to Me,” a combination of rings, springs, bracelets and all things manual.

Bagwell, of Howell, NJ, and Cole, of Highland Park, won first and second place respectively in the category. Margaret Toman, of Highland Park, took home third place.

The Green Art was judged by Highland Park Mayor Meryl Frank, who suggested the category be introduced in 2007 as a means of reinforcing Highland Park’s message of environmental sustainability. The sustainability plan, known as “Highland Park 2020,” is an ambitious experiment in smart growth planning that focuses on energy consumption, recycling, green building practices, and shopping locally to reduce gas emissions as well as social and economic sustainability.

“As New Jersey’s first green community, it’s important that we look at living consciously in every aspect of our life, including the way we express ourselves artistically,” said Mayor Frank, a long-time art lover. “By creating a green art category, we brought Highland Park’s environmental interests and our community’s passion for the arts together.”

Bagwell began collecting litter and using it in her art in 2002.

“I started gluing it together and making mobiles and lamps, and things like that,” Bagwell said. “But the more trash I accumulated, the larger the things I had to make with them became. I started doing less artsy-craftsy stuff and more sculptures.”

Bagwell has always been interested in environmental sustainability. She studied ecology at Rutgers University and currently works at an organic farm. She is also a vegetarian cook and an amateur landscaper. She has no formal art training.

“I definitely want the pieces I create to make an environmental statement,” Bagwell said. “I want to bring the amount of waste we generate every single day to people’s attention. That’s my deepest intention. That’s why everything I do is ‘Green Art.'”

Cole is a high school baseball coach and physical education teacher of 35 years who is also a long-time art collector. He began creating 3-D art in 2003 by grabbing items in his house that would otherwise wind up in the trash can and molding them into interesting shapes.

“I use anything I see that attracts me: toys, flagpoles, tools, billiard balls, musical instruments, something from the hardware store,” Cole said. “I just like to have fun. Collecting the items that will form my piece is one of my favorite parts of the process. I like displaying my work at Arts in the Park too because I’m from Highland Park and I see a lot of people I know who have no idea that I am an artist.”

More than 8,000 art lovers – a festival record – came to Main Street Highland Park’s 2008 Arts in the Park festival on Sept. 21. The crowd enjoyed perfect weather and the work of more than 60 artists who displayed their work along a two-block stretch of Raritan Avenue. Musical acts, street performers and food vendors complemented the juried art show.

“We had more than 8,000 art lovers come out to enjoy the festivities this year; that’s another record crowd” said James McCrone, project manager of Main Street Highland Park. “I saw a lot of families admiring the many entries into our Green Art category. Green Art and our Arts in the Park festival will be Highland Park traditions for many years to come.”

For more information on Arts in the Park and Main Street Highland Park, visit

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