June 14, 2011: the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in USA,  New York City   launches a Franco-American Transatlantic art contest  “Rock the Statue Green”  for students in grades pre-K to 12 . Summary of my June 7 th  lecture/presentation.

Over the past years the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York under the initiative of Fabrice Jaumont have organized art competitions open to students from the New York schools  – [ top winners have always been rewarded with generous prices ]. They are all linked to key historical celebration events, the last one was the “Eiffel Tower” – this contest  received over one thousand entries.

Because of the growing popularity of this events, Fabrice Jaumont asked for my collaboration in this incoming project. He figured out ‘artists ‘ may be best suited to respond to ‘artistic’ problems; while in fact, this project requires the skills of an investigator journalist. Luckily, I am somehow aquatinted with the medias. For a number of years I have been commissioned to illustrate a whole variety of opinions and topics for several national and international newspapers, magazines and publishers – overall the work boils down on finding responses to any imaginable subject. In this respect, figuring out a contest proposal is not much different as it follows the same guided lines. This does not necessary mean that my input would be fair and impartial. By all means, I remain a student, I am here to learn – it is in this way that I try addressing myself to others. Please, let me present the message concerning “Rock the Statue Green” and what it aims to achieve.

Why naming this contest ” Rock the Statue Green” ?

ROCK: to escape unnecessary formality while welcoming free expression.

STATUE: to be part of the celebration of the Statue of Liberty 125th birthday.

GREEN: to relate this event to the environment, a 2011 vital issue.


Rock the Statue Green contest guide lines.

Fabrice Jaumont gives the start of the art contest – June 7th

125 years separate us from the day when the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the USA, was unveiled. Indeed a very long time ago, since radical changes have occurred in our today’s daily life. One major change is how our human activity has impacted our environment. Examples would be too many to name, and this alone expresses the urgency to connect the Statue of Liberty with this pressing issue. This implies that this year contest should strongly reflects the following criteria:

1 . link to environment issues
2 . use of recyclable materials
3 . large scale project
4 . visible to the public – raze awareness

We are not talking rocket science or part of any revolutionary idea: at least 1 of this 4 criteria has already be cover, sometime even in some schools project. But not yet for a contest of this nature connected to such a specific world popular symbol as the Statue of Liberty. And this where the real challenge boils down to.

observe safety rules and common sense

No spray paint or toxic glues should be allowed. Please take note that recycled materials does not necessary mean safe materials, some may be potentially harmful and highly toxic – caution and common sense must be apply at all times, adult[s] or certified educator[s] must be present to monitor any artistic activities. In an other hand Paranoia is also counter productive, more so concerning art assignments, still if you have a doubt, get inform, do some research. We decline any responsibilities on this matter.

link to environment issues

it is undeniable that the amount of garbage we are able to generated has reached an alarming proportion – if we don’t raise awareness and take action, today’s students will be forced to live tomorrow’s as adults in a negatively impacted surrounding – and so will, any form of life with them. It would be a hard punishment to impose on them.

a portrait of how Liberty may look like in a few year

In part, this is the consequence of our selfishness, lack of self discipline and vision, and false convenience link to laziness. This phenomena could be very well portrayed as ‘ getting away with murder ‘ frame of mind  – it requires to be taking with great consideration.

use of recyclable materials

Certainly, some of  the one time used idem are being recycled. With some appearing success too. For example drink cans and bottles are amount the most popular ones to be collected in our city, but this need to be taken with a grain of salt, it is mainly because few cents are offered for their return. Besides, this very unrewarding work is provided by the least fortunate segment of our population. The one with the most despaired need for survival, sorting it out from garbage  – in summer by  burning heat, in winter with frozen fingers.

bottles and cans collecting – New York City

Since pre-K we have been trained naming surrounding ‘objects ‘. Unfortunately, with little interest or care for pointing out which materials they are made of.  We are concern about they immediate utility for ourselves. We have learn to say : “table, chair…” as a result we don’t say  “wood, metal”. We should consider saying ” table equal wood – wood equal tree” and than ask the next question ” where does this tree come from?” and consequently “was it worth to sacrifice a tree to have this table made? ” Facing this reality we could wander ” instead of dumping this table into the garbage, could we use the wood from this table to do something else from it?” Lets be creativity.  Besides, most importantly, it has been said that one dinning table made out of exotic wood  from Brazil represents the lost not just of one tree but of one indigenous live from the Amazon as well.

Fabrice Jaumont as the Statue of Liberty – wears crown and torch made out of one gallon plastic container.

What do we want  to achieve ? Instead of ending with short ‘utility life ‘materials we would be able to extend the ‘lifetime ‘ of this materials by simply re-using them in a different way it was intended/plan/designed for us. True, objects are build from materials in a certain given shape for our use. But lets not be the slaves of someone else ‘shapes ‘ making, lets decide which shapes we want from these materials to have, let explore other avenues. All what it requires is simply to harmonize our good intentions with our imagination. There is almost no limits from creating any project including art ones by re-using materials.

We must take into account as well that the word ‘recycling’ is now being use to describe ‘ grouping’ idem [ mainly labeled by law], onto specific garbage cans… to be then taken away ‘magically’ from our ‘site’. And how the saying goes:  “out of site out of mind”. As a result, we keep having only a very limited responsibility from the real problem, while gratifying ourselves of doing something good. This is definitely not sufficiant, we should be ahead of the game. For example, it does not involve any notion of our participial creativity. And this is exactly the attitude that we need actively to change in order to overcome this negative course.

large scale projects

Liberty roll in library – an example of a possible nature stress free invention

Why size matter? The Statue of Liberty  has been conceived to be ‘big’, one of the idea was that she should be seen from far away. We need to avoid the proposal ending like a small replica from any  souvenir like tourist shop. Besides one expresses him/herself very differently on large scale – it involves not just a thought but a physical participation as well. We tend to view this monument as a sculpture while in fact it is an architectural and engineering ‘ building’ as well. It is proven by the simple fact that one can enter it and clim to the top [ from inside] allowing the experience, high up, of viewing  Manhattan… this important aspect is not very often consider.

visible to the public

Manhattan public school – fence layers

Too often students art creations are exposes in such a way that an outsider must violate the school space in order to be able to see them. This is very damaging concerning the importance of student’s creativity – it reads like a very minor activity  where the school is allowing some favor until a certain degree, but without serious believe that ‘art’ is an important form of expression that matters for the well growing of the mind. And quiet frankly to prepare one to be able to respond with efficiency for work and social activities in their future.

a Manhattan artist though of the future…

Creating art in schools for not being truly seen, meaning able to be share fully with the community, defies the purpose of its real intention. Space location and no offensive obstruction to the view of the art work is extremely important. This consideration alone will ensure  the art work  becoming a ‘bridge'[ like] between the school and the immediate world outside the school – The school must reflect the will to share proudly and sincerely its student’s creation with the public, without any form of boundaries so ever: a real communicative intention. This alone will send a message in defiance of  visual aggression that parade on some of our city walls. The school [administration] has an important role to play. But so does public and private organizations that should offer materials, walls space and technical support to anyone  wishing to express himself or herself graphically . Without opportunity, guidance and examples of creations to inspire one, we will continue living in a permanent surrounding of visual aggression.

US Post Office boxes – New York City

We are not speaking about , what is too often the case, a cute message . The reason is evident, there is a real urgent education call: the walls of the city are covered of the most insane destructive imagery. And this count as well for impacting very negatively in our environment – it should be counted as a visual pollution and a toxicity for the balance of the mind. This does not mean that ‘art’ should not be critical, quiet on the contrary, but it must express itself in a way the message would be articulated and if possibly decently crafted. In this case only, outsider my have chance to relate to an expressed artist idea. The public may not agree necessarily with the intended message but at least they may have a chance to consider it.

I am not being a prude, but it goes from ‘splotched’ paint on doors to more ‘splotched’ paint on Post Office equipment as a tribute to one of a very rare government entity at the service of every single individual in this country. This is nothing else than an ‘assault’ –  common property? Certainly, but  more so on peoples ‘eyes’, perception – do their deserve this level of aggression ?

master piece in progress  – New York City

‘Art’ regarded as ‘play’ if not ‘loosing time’ or simply as  a ‘frustration releaser’,  but never as a rigorous discipline that requires concentration, focusing… Maybe it is why the ‘state’ of the arts on our city walls have reach an unprecedented historical low level – prehistorical cave paintings demonstrating a higher level of sense of observation and achievement. Still, we continue claiming today being the most ‘achieved ‘ civilisation/society  on the face of the earth.

Lady Gaga –  79 Street, New York City

Art lower to the level of entrainment. God forbid art could induce any thinking. Then comes the praised Lady Gaga with her expensive posters campaign – again same graphic ‘splotched’ approach – displaying the endless message from movies and video games posters of the firing a machine gun. Smartly pointed toward the direction of the public passing by on the sidewalk.

World War II resistant woman fighter – Paris,1940s     photograph the New York Public Library Picture Collection

Besides, where this lady has found this “gaga” name if not by attending few French classes. Personally, I have no grudge against ‘gaga’, I have been told often I was very much ‘ gaga ‘ as well, and besides I can defend myself from any form of visual representation – I am advocating for anyone that is unable to figure out the loopholes used by designing and advertising firms. This image focuses on creating cash return without any other consideration, it would be more honest to represent a big cash register on the board. French none ‘gaga’ women, their names totally unknown, their bodies never exposed on a Vogue cover because too busy ‘ga-mbling’ them during Resistance operations.

If the elite keep busy clouting our senses while playing this type of goddess symbol it is no surprise that a young population that is looking for someone to look up too will be keep for ever ignorant.

One reason why we have reach this level of visual mediocrity is simply because the school curriculum is such that it has created an entire population of  what I will call ” image illiterates “who cannot ‘read’ behind ‘sculls and bones ‘ endless rethoric and imagery. A sort of on going and unstoppable chronicle disease. Unfortunately if art does not count much in the school curriculum, art history books if available are accumulating a lot of dust in schools attics – even less personnel to be able to draw comparisons, analyzing and critics – welcome to the world of picture alienation, young and no so young mind control. To make matters worse ‘artists’ and the art gallery scene and medias in general contribute promoting the cynicism, a good feed for the hopeless and again same ‘o’ vision of potencial good cash return… this aggravates the problem… In this case, if there is any recycling , it is the one of the same mediocre message.

Nuremberg? I don’t know – New York City

To remain on a French note. It would be laughable if it was not so sad to see a young man freshly arrived from France to New York to attend a rock concert wearing a T-shirt printed with dancing skeletons imagery – He thought this was a cool image link to a Spanish group, unfortunately  he was clueless that nothing was original about this design, as it is an exact replica of a 1500s Nuremberg wood cut print – we are welcoming the new world of digital scanning and mega copying, it quiet does not matter what we copy as long as we can keep our hands on a hey board. If ‘cool’ today is 500 years old, there is a hope for the Statue of Liberty 125 years old to qualify for ‘super cool’ – but maybe not, she must be still too young.

This modern imagery phenomena represents an other form of pollution and environmental damage. If a society consider that ‘eyes’ have for only function to decode numbers and letters on a computer screen, while unable to see and observe what is gravitating visually within the short distance walk of one city block, then this society is exposing itself to a great failure. What is the most insane is that no one seams to have the desire to criticize this phenomena and even less to change it.

8 years old, 3rd grade paints a ‘head’ on a park fence in  New York City

On a Sunday morning at 10 am Jasper paint with great confidence a big head – on his right an adult [who just left for coffee] has create an unreadable and incoherent scripture . The contrast blew up my mind to the point that I race to my home to grab my camera to take this picture – I wish to share this photograph as a message of  hope.  If adults are  getting lost in neurotic confusion, maybe a child might be able to teach us the way,  If we still have a learning desire we can take inspiration and classes from anyone. This contest is about finding and displaying  healthier ways of image expression.

Columbian mural 2011 – photo Yves Vial

If we are  still willing to learn but turned off by visions of our distressing environment, maybe we should consider learning from wandering on the streets of Bogota… giving a chance to our eyes to see beyond our city walls.

– an art contest to raze awareness


This contest aims to raze environmental awareness, consider ‘being a light’ for others. lets turn our alienating ‘trash’ into  material to express our ideas artistically. lets our creativity clear the city wall from polluting distrutive imagery .

Welcome all. Your participation to “Rock the Statue Green” has never been so urgently needed. “bonne chance et que le meilleur gagne“. Thank you.

Raymond Verdaguer, president.

-More to visit

New York in French: Rock the Statue Green

French Culture :Rock the Statue Green” a transalantic Art Contest

More info on the contest visit ” Rock the Statue Green “

Read the French press A la recherche de votre Statue de la liberte “



conference room of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy – New York

972 Fifth Avenue at 79th Street,  New York, NY 10075

it’s ‘cool’ to visit Ellis Island, this people rock.

I gratefully acknowledge

  • the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York for honoring me to preside this year art contest
  • Fabrice Jaumont and Shiam Kheddar for master minding this education event .
  • Diana Pardue, Chief Museum Services Division – Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, – National Park Service – US Department of the Interior. For her supportive warm welcome.
  • David Luchsinger, Superintendent – Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, – National Park Service – US Department of the Interior. For his optimism, enthusiasm and straight forwardness.
  • William Castro, Borough Commissioner  Manhattan – City of New York, Park & Recreation. For his wise words.

Special thanks to my webmaster for her endless imaginative creative skills and unlimited longtime support.

 texts copyright of The Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York, 2011

Linoleum cuts,  drawings, photographs and texts copyright Raymond Verdaguer, 2011.

%d bloggers like this: