As part of his residency at the Clay Art Center Matthew Smith has been making the streets of Port Chester a nicer-looking place. His current exhibition is called My Name is Nobody (July 11 – July 28) and he’s also been working on what he calls the Block by Block project, in which he finds trash on the streets of Port Chester with the intention of using some of it to make a map of the city.
We’ve seen you with a push-cart titled “Artist at Work” around town, can you tell us about what you’ve been doing beyond Clay Art Center’s facility on Beech Street?
When I moved here a year ago I really wanted to get to know the community and environment of Port Chester and I thought that I could do this as an art project. I’ve been going around Port Chester (starting at CAC) and slowly picking up trash on every street that I go through.
What are you doing with this trash?
It’s a multi-layered project. I collect and sort the trash into three categories: Usable for art, not usable, and recyclable. The usable objects I find like bottle caps and plastics are composed into a long strip and coated with plaster; I’m creating a visual road map of Port Chester using these discarded things. Since the end result is a little abstract I’m also archiving everything through Instagram with the profile name Blockbyblockproject.
What has been the oddest piece of trash you’ve found in Port Chester?
I just found these colorful Legos that brought me back to my younger days of playing. There was also this nametag from Party City that said “Jessica” on it. I’ve put it on Instagram with hashtags in the farfetched hopes that someone will claim it.
This sounds like a great way to beautify Port Chester, has there been a lot of community engagement?
The push-cart is really great for that, I think it separates me from others who look for things to recycle off of the street. One of my most memorable experiences was when I was on Fox Island Road where two local men were really curious to what I was doing and invited me over for a beer – we ended up talking for half an hour about how they came to Port Chester. I have a rule not to wear headphones and to always make eye contact so I can engage with people.
Matthew Smith is an artist and educator who has been working in clay for 10 years, according to the CAC. He was born and raised in Indiana and went to Anderson University to receive a B.A. in Art Education with an emphasis in ceramics. After teaching elementary art in public schools for six years, he spent the last year as a special student at Syracuse University. During several summers he has been a student, teaching assistant, and studio technician at the Chautauqua School of Art in western New York. He will be attending the University of Colorado Boulder in the fall to pursue a MFA in ceramics.
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