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Contrary to expected public art, Mierle Laderman Ukeles exhibited a different type of art whereby she used the environment as her site of work and she went on to involve the people in her works. What started as a coincidence for a liking of art turned out to develop into a gigantic love of the environment , and consequently blending love of art with the conservation and cleaning of the environment. Mierle began work of art while in college and despite the challenges and resistances that she faced from her lectures, she persisted and eventually had her way. Eventually she became a teacher and she even wrote curricula for art!
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The display of her work began when she was admitted to the New York Department of Sanitation (DOS) in 1977. She began by getting to know all the members of staff at a personal level, and by this way, she incorporated them into her work program. One of her art works while at DOS was the 'Touch Sanitation Performance' of 1978 which consisted of two parts namely the 'Handshake Ritual' and 'Follow in Your Footsteps.' in the former, she went around New York and personally shook the hands of the over 8500 sanitation staff while thanking them for keeping New York clean and the latter involved doing exactly as the sanitation staff did in collecting trash. She even went to the extent of writing each letters in lieu of this. Another of her art projects included the creation of a gigantic installation at the Los Angeles museum of Contemporary art, a piece she coined 'Unburning Freedom Hall' to depict the what fire meant in the city.
By doing these extraordinary art work involving the sanitation and care for the environment, Mierle Laderman Ukeles attracted donor funding for some of her work which helped in the conservation and sanitizing the environment. In addition, by involving the sanitation staff in her art work, she encouraged them to view their work in a different perspective, as art rather than work, and in this way improved their working capacity and capabilities. Therefore her extraordinary type of art has gone a long way in helping her and the larger population of New York in environmental care procedures and also sanitation implementation!
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