On October 22nd, The Plastic Bag Store opens in Times Square. The immersive, site-specific public art installation and puppet film was created by Brooklyn-based artist Robin Frohardt, with original music by Freddi Price and produced by Pomegranate Arts. The Plastic Bag Store will be on view Wednesdays through Saturdays until November 7, 2020 at 20 Times Square, coinciding with the reinstatement of New York’s plastic bag ban—which was put on hold during the pandemic—and goes back into effect on October 19.
From the outside, The Plastic Bag Store will appear to be a typical New York City grocery store — but look closer and you will notice its colorful aisles are stocked with thousands of objects crafted from upcycled plastic bags.
With The Plastic Bag Store, Robin Frohardt employs humor and craft to examine our culture of consumption and convenience, and the enduring effects of single-use plastics. Small groups will enter The Plastic Bag Store for a 60-minute immersive experience, featuring hidden sets and a captivating puppet film that explores how the overabundance of plastic waste we leave behind might be misinterpreted by future generations.
Free and open to the public, The Plastic Bag Store brings back a sense of spectacle, theatrics, and entertainment to Times Square, a cultural hub that was always home to Broadway shows, live events, and tourist attractions on every corner. Tickets are free and open to the public — with limited capacity — making each hour-long experience a safe, clean, socially distant one.
“The Plastic Bag Store is a visually rich, tactile, and humorous experience that hopefully encourages a different way of thinking about the foreverness of plastic, the permanence of the disposable, and that there is no ‘away’ when we throw something out,” Frohardt said. “It is my attempt to make something authentic and human from that which is mass-produced. There is great humor to be found in the pitfalls of capitalism and I find that humor and satire can be powerful tools for social criticism especially with issues that feel too sad and overwhelming to confront directly.”
The Plastic Bag Store artistically reinterprets a typical New York grocery store, but its colorful aisles will be stocked with products created with single-use plastics. Frohardt has upcycled thousands of plastic bags to hand make everyday supermarket products, from pints of ice cream and whole rotisserie chickens to deli items, and cleaning supplies.
Throughout the past seven months in quarantine, the artist has taken the time to create new products and experiences for the store, including a cigarette rack displaying brands like Marlbags and Lucky Bags and a reimagined puppet show through a new puppet film — which is central to the immersive installation — and will be released in full in the spring of 2021.
Times Square pedestrian counts, while still down from historic levels, have already rebounded to daily averages of 140,000 people (more, for example, than the pre-COVID attendance of Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center and Animal Kingdom combined).
Due to COVID-19 social distancing and capacity measures, prior registration is required. The Plastic Bag Store has developed comprehensive safety measures and enhanced cleaning procedures for visitors and staff, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), New York State, and New York City. All visitors will be required to wear a face covering and practice social distancing by maintaining at least six feet from others. Hand sanitizer stations will be provided throughout the store.
For those who aren’t able to visit The Plastic Bag Store in-person, stay tuned for more information on virtual visits, and a feature-length film to be released in spring of 2021 commissioned by UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance.
ABOUT ROBIN FROHARDT
Robin Frohardt is an award-winning artist, puppet designer, and director living in Brooklyn, NY. Frohardt’s performance and puppetry-based work has been presented at St. Anne’s Warehouse and HERE in New York City, as well as national venues including the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts and the NEXTNOW Festival in Maryland. Her films have been screened at the Telluride Film Festival, Maritime Film Festival, and the Parish Museum.
She has received a Creative Capital Award and a DisTil Fellowship from the University of North Carolina for The Plastic Bag Store; has been the recipient of Made In NY Woman’s Fund Grant Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, MacDowell Colony Fellowship; and was the first artist in Residence at Olson Kundig, a renowned design and architecture firm in Seattle.
In addition to directing her own work, Frohardt’s puppetry and props have also appeared in TV shows such as Orange is the New Black and 30 Rock, as well as Radio City Music Hall’s Spring Spectacular.
ABOUT TIMES SQUARE ARTS
Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, collaborates with contemporary artists and cultural institutions to experiment and engage with one of the world’s most iconic urban places. Through the Square’s electronic billboards, public plazas, vacant areas and popular venues, and the Alliance’s own online landscape, Times Square Arts invites leading contemporary creators to help the public see Times Square in new ways.
Visit www.timessquarenyc.org/arts for more information. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @TSqArts.
ABOUT POMEGRANATE ARTS
Founded by Linda Brumbach in 1998, Pomegranate Arts is an independent production company based in New York City dedicated to the development of international performing arts projects. As a creative producing team, Pomegranate Arts works in close collaboration with contemporary artists and arts institutions to bring bold and ambitious artistic ideas to fruition.
ABOUT 20 TIMES SQUARE
The Plastic Bag Store would not be possible without the generous support of Mark Siffin, CEO of Maefield Development, which owns 20 Times Square. For more than a decade, Siffin has delivered passionate support for the Times Square community and the Alliance. As a life-long artist himself, Siffin consistently embraces the importance of young artists being presented to the 127MM-person pedestrian audience that Times Square delivers every year. 20 Times Square is at the epicenter of this activity and serves as the show case stage in our daily celebration of our shared humanity.