Robin Frohardt

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distil Fellow

Artist, puppet designer, and director.

Robin Frohardt takes the mundane, everyday items and experiences, adds her creativity and unique sense of humor, and transforms them into thought-provoking art.

An artist, puppet designer, and director, Frohardt’s inventive work has received national recognition, including from the Guggenheim Foundation, which awarded her a fellowship in 2018.

During Frohardt’s DisTIL residency, she collaborated with UNC faculty and students from departments including archaeology, public health, public policy and Romance Languages, as well as campus environmental groups, the Center for the Study of the American South, BeAM Makerspace, and others. These partnerships directly informed her work on The Plastic Bag Store, an installation and performance that she developed during her time as a DisTIL Fellow. The Plastic Bag Store premiered in September 2018 at CPA’s CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio.

Her collaborations led to numerous other events, including Plasticon in spring 2018, a day-long festival to bring together UNC and the local community to collectively acknowledge and understand the effects of disposable plastic packaging on our planet, featuring Frohardt’s plastic art installations, activities and information from sustainability groups, and more.

Since its premiere at Carolina Performing Arts, The Plastic Bag Store has been scheduled as an installation in Times Square.


As part of her work at UNC as a Mellon DisTIL Fellow, Frohardt is creating a large-scale installation called The Plastic Bag Store. She hopes that her work will be a fun and engaging way for the audience to think more deeply about one of the most ubiquitous objects in our lives: the plastic bag. “I’m building a fake grocery store in a real storefront that seems like a regular grocery store except that everything inside this grocery store is actually just plastic bags–packaging inside of packaging inside of packaging,” says Frohardt. She will explore UNC faculty research into the impact of plastic bags in our environment today, new ideas to lessen plastic’s impact on our future, and how archaeologists study the containers and remnants from the past.

The grocery store will also be the setting for an interactive play. “Audience members will be able to travel down aisles that will twist and turn; scenes will be revealed; and trap doors will open,” she says. “In this setting, the audience will be experiencing a play that is about the present day and the far-off future where people are excavating, analyzing, interpreting, and misinterpreting all of this plastic garbage that we have left behind.”

Frohardt appreciates that the Mellow DisTIL Fellowship offers a longer period to explore ideas involved in The Plastic Bag Store and gives her access to the different departments of the university. “I’m working with people in the archaeology department, as well as art history, to investigate further some of the ideas that the store addresses which is a rare opportunity,” she says. “I’m hoping that it will add depth to the work, help with the educational component of the work, and add to the overall quality.” Beyond the ideas that emerge from The Plastic Bag Store, she expects that her next project will be born from her experiences at UNC.

Frohardt says that the collaborative nature of a college campus enhances her creativity. “There’s a tendency, if you were to sit alone in your studio, to spin your gears mentally and just have the same ideas be churning and churning and churning,” says Frohardt. “But the have access to all the different minds that are here at UNC: there are other gears that are spinning that I can make contact with and they can send me off in a different direction. There’s time for things to ferment and bubble to the surface that otherwise would not have had an opportunity to do so.”

Michele Lynn

The Plastic Bag Store at CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio

Frohardt created The Plastic Bag Store as a part of her Andrew W. Mellon DisTIL Fellowship through Carolina Performing Arts. The art exhibit and puppet performances, housed within a space Frohardt outfitted to look like a real grocery store, featured everyday household and food items with a plastic-themed twist to call attention to the environmental and health issues that arise from plastic waste.

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