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August Exhibit With a Message

CHARLES CITY, Iowa - The Charles City Arts Center is excited to exhibit “Not My Grandma’s Quilt” by artist Erik Jon Olson. The month-long August art show features “quilts” made from recycled/repurposed plastic waste.

The catalyst for this artistic expression came to Erik after retiring from the advertising industry in Minneapolis. While working with a friend on a venture, he was challenged to use his creative design background on the plastic waste being used in his friends project. The idea of making plastic waste quilts was born.

It is more than a simple passion for art and creativity with the Iowa born artist that keeps him busy, it is a passion for the environment and sustainability. The driving force behind his art is the actual medium used, the plastic waste, using what would otherwise become landfill.

Beyond the plastic waste, everything Olson uses is either recycled/repurposed or purchased 2nd hand. Nothing new is involved in any level of his creative process.

Erik credits inspiration for the idea itself to his grandmother who would use old cloth bags and glass jars that goods came in to craft dolls and clothing and other items. The idea of repurposing and reusing was ingrained early.

“All works are constructed from machine quilted and surged, previously used, single-use plastic. The ‘batting’ consists of used pallet wrap and packing foam. The thread is manufacturing left-overs and overstock. Even my sewing machines were previously owned. One, of which, was my grandmother’s.”

Erik is very concerned about the human impact on our planet and seeks environmentally responsible ways to do most everything in his life. His art is no different.

And the art’s message conveys that.

“By layering environmental issues with social justice messaging, my art emphasizes our alienation from the environment and each other, our willingness to waste, and our subsequent need for healing.”

Erik hopes that people will walk away with a renewed or new sense of their impact on the planet and their surrounding community and ask themselves questions about their consumer habits and gain “a curiosity about why we consume so much, why we waste so much and how that can effect the whole planet.”

Erik adds, “Through seeing a new thing done in an old way, I hope the viewer comes away with the knowledge that one can hang on to tradition and make change at the same time. Or to put it another way, that the courage and willingness to make a change and the desire of and comfort in honoring tradition are not mutually exclusive.”

The August exhibit kicked off Friday, August 4th - close to 80 people were on hand. It was a huge success and loads of fun. If you missed the opening, fear not, for I took photos. AND... the show is up all month long, so feel free to stop in and take a look.

Pics or it didn't happen:

Arts Center assistant director, Karl Haglund, works on installing one of the plastic waste quilts. Photo by the artist, Erik Jon Olson.

Artist Erik Jon Olson on the right.


For more information call 641-228-6284 or send an email to

The arts center is located across from central Park at 301 N. Jackson Street.

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