A yearlong effort at WCU wraps up Friday, April 16, when an armored truck pulls away from campus loaded with thousands of mock hundred-dollar bills created for the national Fundred Dollar Bill Project.
The Fundred goal is to clean up lead-contaminated soil in New Orleans and raise overall awareness about the environment. Anyone who wanted to could draw a mock hundred-dollar bill on a Fundred template, downloadable on the project’s Web site. Teachers throughout the United States have incorporated elements of the project into lesson plans, and schoolchildren and communities, with the help of local organizers, contributed to the cause by creating individual works of art on Fundred templates.
“We asked participants to create a valuable commodity with their drawings and the messages written on their bills,” said Marie Cochran, a faculty member in the WCU School of Art and Design and a local Fundred organizer.
An armored truck is en route across the country collecting the bills, and organizers plan to deliver the bills to the U.S. Congress later this summer and request an even exchange of Fundred bills for funding and in-kind support with a goal of $300 million to address lead-polluted soils in New Orleans.
The WCU sendoff will be from 10-11 a.m. Friday on the lawn of A.K. Hinds University Center. The event is free and the public is invited. Festivities will begin with a team of students from WCU and Summit Charter School in Cashiers presenting the bills to the Fundred driver. Carol Burton, assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate studies, will provide the formal welcome and remarks. Award winners from faculty/staff and student Fundred competitions also will be announced and the winning entries will be on display. After the presentation, there will be lawn events and a big band performance by students in the School of Music. Participants will have an opportunity to create Fundred bills. The event’s rain location is the WCU Fine Art Museum’s Star Lobby.
The Fundred Dollar Bill Project was the idea of conceptual artist Mel Chin, and he introduced the project to campus in March 2009 as a visiting artist. Environmental, political, cultural and social themes dominate Chin’s work, which often requires multidisciplinary, collaborative teamwork. Past projects included gardens designed to draw heavy metals from some of the world’s most heavily contaminated areas and an interactive video game based on rug patterns of nomadic people facing persecution.
Chin is a great example of activism through art, Cochran said at the time of his visit. “Chin’s work is very much about civic engagement. A simple idea, because he wants so many people to be a part of it, becomes a dynamic, multilayered endeavor,” said Cochran.
Since that visit, Cochran and Erin Tapley, WCU associate professor of art education, have been forces in organizing the Fundred effort locally. (And Cochran will work to the last, collecting cooking oil from eating establishments to power the Fundred armored truck.)
WCU’s goal was to collect 7,000 bills from faculty, staff, students, schoolchildren and others in the community, with approximately 5,100 as of April 7, Tapley said. Tapley’s father-in-law, Elmer Downing, a former accountant, has done the counting, she said. The overall Fundred goal is 3 million bills.
Cochran concentrated on corralling WCU students to create bills – she especially is impressed with participation outside the art department – and Tapley coordinated with local schools to involve schoolchildren. Michelle Weiskopf, a WCU student earning her master of arts in teaching, organized Fundred-making activities throughout Jackson County as part of a class. Summit Charter K-8 art teacher Leslie Rosenberg, who earned her master’s degree at WCU, encouraged her students to participate. They embraced the project, and the school became a collection point for bills.
The project is deceptively sophisticated, Cochran said. “It seems like a simple K-12 art assignment, but it’s much more than that. It’s a visual petition in support of New Orleans,” she said.