Redemptive Plastics

Alt_Chicago + Happy Returns

Redemptive Plastics - bench. Credit: ANF Chicago
Redemptive Plastics - bench. Credit: ANF Chicago

About Redemptive Plastics

Redemptive Plastics invests in the Austin community by collecting and “redeeming” discarded plastics. Redirecting a potential pollutant from the waste stream and creating communal assets, like public benches, provides a tangible means for neighbors to address the proliferation of plastics in the community and bear witness to the potential for those plastics to contribute to public life. 

Plastics as public seating is just the beginning. With this redemptive practice we hope to provide a transformative system for generations to come. This includes recruiting residents from Austin to collect, sort, clean and transform plastics into functional art that can serve a vital purpose in the community.

To get involved, and learn more, visit:

Neighborhood: Austin

Art Type: Functional Art

Grant Amount: $65,000

Media Gallery

Click on each image to enlarge and to see the photo caption.

Redemptive Plastics Team
L-R: Jordan Campbell, Jon Veal, Tom Burtonwood, Cody Norman

About the Artists

Jordan Campbell (alt_co-founder) A documentary photographer and arts educator whose social practice is rooted in advocacy for political and economic transformation within marginalized communities. Through his teaching artist roles and community activism, Campbell created a pedagogy of reform based in artistic expression. As a teacher at Austin Career Academy in Chicago, Campbell used his camera as a tool to give voice to people in need. Campbell serves as a member of The Chicago Avenue Corridor Improvement Study Team in partnership with Lamar Johnson Collaborative and The Chicago Department of Transportation.

After serving over 5 years in the Windy City, Campbell experienced first hand how a history of turmoil and trauma can be deeply rooted in communities. As well as the limitations of an individual art form. In 2019, Campbell and Jon Veal founded Alt Space Chicago. alt_ was a culmination of their shared  understanding of the current separation between art, faith and community and their belief that artists could traverse all three. For alt_ there is no separation; and through this belief they seek to revitalize the cultures of Chicago through creative tangible acts of service. Since this merger alt_ has combatted food apartheid, through alt_Market, changed the narrative of Austin through Project Stamp, mobilized volunteers through Sunday Service while serving as an deterrent for violence, created environmental advancements for the communities through alt_[] and passed the torch through transformative pedagogy in the C.L.A.Y program.

Jon Veal (alt_co-founder)  forged a collaborative transdisciplinary practice that was informed by relationships, meaning that the community and spaces that he resided in often dictated the work itself and what form it take. Veal believed “to understand one part is to understand all parts”. Primarily focused on the capacity of symbolic gesture as a means of strategy, he used his artistic agency as a platform for building communal spaces.

Veal exhibited at Chicago Artist Department, Silent Funny, William Hill Gallery, Homewood Science Center, Chicago Cultural Ball, Kiss the Brain Gallery, Catich Gallery at St. Ambrose University and the Terrain Biennial representing Austin, Chicago.

Veal was the first African American Artist in Residence at Oak Park Public Library. In 2019 Veal also held the Field/Work Artist in Residence at Chicago Artist Coalition. In 2020 he became a recipient of the 3Arts “Make A Wave” grant along with receiving the Spark grant from the Chicago Artist Coalition which recognizes exceptional artists working in Chicago.

In 2021 Veal  was invited to join the Resource Global Chicago Cohort in addition to being the 2021 Spring Latham Fellow at IIT institute of Design. Veal also served on the the auxiliary Board of Directors for The Design Museum of Chicago and on the Chicago Avenue Corridor Improvement Study Team in partnership with Lamar Johnson Collaborative and The Chicago Department of Transportation.

Although Jon Veal tragically and suddenly passed away in 2022, alt_ Chicago continues to honor his legacy and acknowledge his invaluable contribution to the design and vision of Redemptive Plastics.

Tom Burtonwood (b. United Kingdom) is a Chicago-based multidisciplinary artist, curator and educator and Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where they teach in the Departments of Contemporary Practices. Burtonwood makes generative systems that produce drawings, sculpture and time based works reflecting upon themes and topics including computation, pattern, glitch and topology. He/they hold an MFA from Southern Illinois University (USA) and a BA from Loughborough College of Art (UK).

Burtonwood is co-director of Happy Returns, a creative studio located in the Austin community of Chicago. Happy Returns folds industrial processes into creative computing and robotics to produce a range of outcomes for the community. Clients include the Michael Reese Health Trust and the Hyde Park Art Center.

Cody Norman is a Chicago-based artist, designer, and educator. He currently serves as part-time faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is co-director of Happy Returns Studio. He graduated with a BFA in Designed Objects and Sculpture from SAIC in 2016 and earned an MFA in 3D Design from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2020. Norman works with both robotic 3D printing and a hand-held extrusion gun to transform recycled and bio plastics into functional art objects. Creating enigmatic forms that feel at once familiar and foreign, Norman’s process physically blurs the line between digital and hand craft.

Community Partners

Lester Lockhart, Loads of Fun Laundromats has served as the collection site for Redemptive Plastics recycling bins. Patrons contribute over 200 pounds of plastics each week.

The Austin Branch of the Chicago Public Library serves Austin, West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park, North Lawndale and Near West Side neighborhoods. A valued community partner, the Austin Branch will be the first stop for the Redemptive Plastics Progressive Community Opening Event on June 3, 2023.

Harambee Community Garden, a part of NeighborSpace, will be the second stop on the Redemptive Plastics progressive opening event. Located at the corner of Race and Waller on two oversized lots in the Austin neighborhood, Harambee Community Garden consists of an allotment garden and community gathering / performance area which is set back from the sidewalk and surrounded by perennial flower beds, shrubs and trees. The site also includes several beehives and hosts goats on its southern portion.

Long time Austin resident, owner and investor, Mr. Floyd has partnered with Redemptive Plastics by inviting a full-scale activation for the Redemptive Plastics Progressive Community Opening Event. The communal event will feature the public benches, and other functional art created by the project, at Mr. Floyd’s property in the Austin community.

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