ART : Banners Flag Earth's Woes and Solutions

Zan Dubin is a Times staff writer who writes about the arts for The Times Orange County Edition.

You wonder if environmentally themed art, meant to make us do something about pollution, will have an effect. Does anyone even think about recycling, car-pooling or planting a tree after a trip to the local gallery? It may be impossible to know--most of the time.

But "EARTH Banners," a project tied to Earth Day 1991 that trumpets its message along two major Fullerton streets, definitely has made people at least think.

Twenty-three California artists have painted or stitched 24 banners for the project, expressing their views about the ailing environment. Eighteen of the colorful, 9-by-3 foot flags hang from lampposts along Harbor Boulevard from Chapman to Berkeley avenues; six are positioned along West Campus Drive on the Cal State Fullerton campus.

On each lamppost is a sign explaining the artist's work. But collaborators Mary-Linn Hughes and Barbara Margolies, who contributed two banners to the project, want viewers to do more than see and read.

One of their black-and-white banners carries the words USE FULL and depicts environmentally beneficial items: a bus, a bicycle, a windmill. USE LESS is written on their other banner, which shows such energy gobblers as a car. The artists left blank space on each of their signs, along with pens--inviting viewers to write down their own ecologically useless or useful items.

The effort is working. Such suggestions as "solar energy" are scrawled on the first sign. "Styrofoam," "cigarette butts" and "aerosol hair spray cans" is a sampling from the second.

That sort of participation was what organizers sought. Envisioned as an effort to raise awareness and promote individual and community action, the project was organized and sponsored by the Fullerton Museum Center; the city of Fullerton; the environmentally concerned group Artists Contributing to the Solution (ACTS); the Cal State Fullerton Student Environmental Action League; School of the Arts and Departmental Advisory Council, and Aaron Brothers Art Mart. Some of the artists were selected by downtown Fullerton galleries. Others were chosen by an organizing committee and through a juried competition.

"We hope this will be a catalyst for more involvement," said ACTS member Janice DeLoof. "Before you have action there has to be some dialogue."

Toxic landfills, smog and oil spills are the subjects of other banners, while still others carry uplifting scenes of a pristine planet Earth, trees and ocean waves. Some of the fabric banners are frayed and the wind has damaged acrylic paint applied to several made of nylon. But those sorts of problems were expected, said Joe Felz, Fullerton Museum director. "The first year was an experiment," he said. "We hope to do this annually."

What: "EARTH Banners".

When: Daily through April 30.

Where: Eighteen banners are displayed on street light poles on both sides of Harbor Boulevard in Fullerton from Chapman to Berkeley avenues. Six more are displayed along West Campus Drive at Cal State Fullerton.

Whereabouts: To get to the flags along Harbor Boulevard, exit the Riverside Freeway at Harbor and proceed north on Harbor. To get to Cal State Fullerton, exit the Orange Freeway at Chapman, go west to State College Boulevard, then north to the university.

Wherewithal: Admission is free.

Where to Call: (714) 738-6545.

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