Conclusion of National Project OPERATION PAYDIRT/FUNDREDImage of

Conclusion of National Project OPERATION PAYDIRT/FUNDRED

01.22.10 – The University Art Museum at Colorado State University concludes its role in the national project OPERATION PAYDIRT/FUNDRED, which supports implementing a solution to lead-related health issues currently challenging post-disaster New Orleans. The museum’s contribution to the project, developed by artist-activist Mel Chin, involved supplying and gathering FUNDRED dollar bill art templates at the community level, while assisting students at Rocky Mountain High School who are taking a central role in the endeavor.

For nearly a year, students all over Fort Collins have created FUNDRED Dollar Bills–original, hand-drawn interpretations of U.S. $100 bills. FUNDRED artworks created by CSU and Poudre School District students will be collected at Rocky Mountain High School beginning at 1:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 1, at Rocky, 1300 W. Swallow Rd.

RMHS, one of only 125 collection sites across the country, will be visited by a special armored truck, retrofitted to run on waste vegetable oil, as part of the 18,000 mile pick-up event. Approximately $350,000 worth of FUNDREDS made by PSD and CSU students, as well as teachers, parents, and other community members, will be given to the FUNDRED armored guards and eventually presented to the U.S. Congress with a request for real funding to make safe lead-polluted soils in New Orleans.

The opening of the University Art Museum in 2008 was marked by a lecture from Mel Chin who was selected as the keynote speaker because of his life-long commitment to visual arts as a catalyst for social justice and environmental activism. Initially at a loss as to what an artist could do to address the enormity of the disaster, Chin discovered a problem that plagued New Orleans before the storm had even hit; New Orleans is one of the most lead polluted cities in the United States, exposing thousands of children to lead poisoning with devastating results ranging from disease and learning disabilities to behavioral problems linked to violent crime.

Colorado State University sociology professor Sammy Zahran is a leading researcher of reduced educational achievement resulting from the neurotoxic effects of child lead exposure. His research shows that standardized test performance of children in primary schools in New Orleans is significantly influenced by the accumulation of lead in neighborhood surface soils and blood lead levels in children. “Lead exposure reduces average test scores, and the effects of lead exposure on child standardized test performance are as strong as known predictors of test performance, like student-teacher ratios, poverty, and school racial composition,” said Zahran.

According to Zahran, reducing the risk of child lead exposure is cost-effective. His research shows that to improve educational performance, capping lead in playground soils, producing measurable reductions in blood lead levels, may be a cheaper and more effective policy alternative than longer-term investments, such as reducing class size, and can significantly improve the life chances of children in terms of higher earned income as an adult. “Because the cognitive effects of ead exposure are lasting, the remediation goals of the FUNDRED project can bring lasting benefits to the children of New Orleans, and the gains more than offset the costs of making our communities safe and livable,” said Zahran.

For Chin, rebuilding after Katrina offered the opportunity to address this environmental scourge. Chin’s ingenious project combines public awareness, education, and creative activity with a sound scientific protocol and plan. The Fort Collins community is encouraged to attend the FUNDRED pick up on February 1 at Rocky Mountain High School. Dr. Jean Lehmann, Emeritus Associate Dean of the College of Applied Human Sciences and special education expert, as well as University Art Museum Director and environmental art specialist, Linny Frickman, will speak as part of the program, and be available for comments.

To learn more about us and the FUNDRED project go to www.artmuseum.colostate.edu, or call 970-491-1989.