Jeff and Theresa Heaton

And The Story Begins…

Artist Statement

2021 Make A Splash With Trash


Back in January, Kerry Hagy contacted us about the possibility of creating two temporary installments with beach trash from a grant she was submitting in cooperation with the Michigan Maritime Museum. We of course were intrigued about this idea and gave our curious nod of approval. As collaborative artists who work primarily with recycling materials, this seemed like a perfect marriage of combining our passion for repurposing, beautification, and public art.


But the story began way before all this…


After grant approval in June and meeting on location with Kerry and Maritime Museum Education Director Ashley Deming, we began sketching out ideas, brainstorming designs, concepts and engineering techniques. This began our beach trash evolution journey that would open our eyes to places and people of South Haven that were hidden in plain sight all along.



But the story really began before all this…


As a point of reference our Cheeky Chic-y Studio work is totally material driven. We primarily use paper-based packaging to create functional and beautiful pieces, and we were operating on this philosophy when starting the Make A Splash With Trash public art project. However, soon our direction changed as our eyes were quickly opened to the seriousness of the issue to which we were assigned. Instead of attempting to just create something aesthetically pleasing, the message and education component of these projects became a top priority. Art is all about problem solving.


But this was not the beginning of our story….


Early on, we had an indication of size and scale for each site, but our imagery was in constant flux until we actually began collecting beach trash. The collection process led us along the north beach to a cozy vintage cottage, the Kal-Haven tra


il, garbage cans, city dumpsters, the cemetery, and the department of public works. Along the way we also met friendly South Haven residents, energetic work staff, summer visitors, and helpful people who listened to our beach trash mission story. We soon developed a new perspective when we found ourselves inside dumpsters poking around for colorful beach toys while trying to avoid the illusive local racoon family and the smell of dead fish. Unfortunately these things were unavoidable.


But our story had another beginning….


We agreed that a simple image of S.O.S. for the South Haven Center For The Arts piece would present pedestrians and motorists with a quick visual distress call signal, thus triggering more interest and pondering, “What’s this all about? Using the bright beach trash toys for the letters, and creating fish heads from cut and reassembled water bottles provided the base of materials needed for the border.


For Fish Over Troubled Water at the Michigan Maritime Museum site, we devised a woven construction employing found beach materials such as a tent, colorful inflatables, drop cloth, lawn chair fabric, beer cans, and flip flops onto a fish shaped wire support. Underneath the 8’ fish, the symbolic, round water base was designed with 600+ bottle caps and beer can tops and bottoms, each screwed onto a round wooden base that was first covered with a beach umbrella.


But the story actually began like this……


The question of how and why all of this trash ended up along the beaches of South Haven is the question we would like to address with these two pieces. So for us the story really begins when YOU and I — as consumers — walk into our local grocery store, shopping center, or big box store and make our purchasing choices. If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by all the incredible assortment of convenient products, some stacked up to near ceiling height, and wondered what happens to all this packaging and stuff then maybe you are on the same page with us.


Everyone makes consuming choices everyday, probably without thinking about where the leftover products will end up. We all breathe a collective sigh of relief when we neatly bag up our trash, tightly close the garbage can lid, and watch someone else pick it up and drive it away to its new location. Now some of that trash has f


ound its new home, at the beach of South Haven Michigan and undeniably we’ve ALL contributed to this at one time or another.


In our evaluation, it is our goal that in viewing Call For Help and Fish Over Troubled Water the observer might not just see colorful and fun public art displays, but also understand the impact we all make upon our environment every time we shop.

Maybe next time ask yourself, “Do I really need to buy this case of bottled water?”


Thanks to the South Haven Center For The Arts and The Michigan Maritime Museum for this artistic and environmental stewardship opportunity.




Jeff & Theresa Heaton

Cheeky Chic-y Studio

Thank you so much! This project has been made possible through a grant from Greater Area South Haven Community Foundation, and by operational support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Culture and the National Endowment for the Arts. Thank you to the Maritime Museum for this wonderful collaboration!

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