Mel Chin

ABOG Distinguished Artist Fellow


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Artist Mel Chin insinuates art into unlikely places, including destroyed homes, toxic landfills, and even popular television, investigating how art can provoke greater social awareness and responsibility. He developed Revival Field (1989-ongoing), a project that has been a pioneer in the field of “green remediation,” the use of plants to remove toxic, heavy metals from the soil. From 1995-1998 he formed the collective, the GALA Committee, that produced In the Name of the Place, a conceptual public art project conducted on American primetime television. In KNOWMAD, Chin worked with software engineers to create a video game based on rug patterns of nomadic people facing cultural disappearance. His film, 9-11/9-11, a hand-drawn, 24-minute, joint Chilean/USA Production, won the prestigious Pedro Sienna Award, for Best Animation, National Council for the Arts and Cultures, Chile, in 2007.

Chin’s most recent project, Operation Paydirt/Fundred Dollar Bill Project, was initiated in 2006 to engage communities nationwide in a creative grassroots action to instigate solutions to the national crisis of lead contamination.  Over eight years, the project has grown from a viral initiative involving a few thousand children to over 400,000 participants across the country, advancing awareness of lead poisoning prevention and remediation practices.  As a social sculpture, Operation Paydirt draws on creative methods to raise awareness, build consensus among stakeholders, educate lawmakers on solutions, and use theatrical art performance to symbolically exchange “Fundred Dollar Bills” – original, hand-drawn interpretations of $100 bills– for actual funding and solutions to childhood lead poisoning.

Creating a Socially Engaged Art Curriculum – Reports from the Field

The Making of the Fundred Dollar Bill Initiative PSA – Reports from the Field

Visit the Operation Paydirt website


A conversation on the art and politics of environmental policymaking with artist Mel Chin and Kevin P. McCarty, Principal Geologist, Integral Consulting Inc., moderated by Deborah Fisher, Executive Director, A Blade of Grass. Click here to explore ABOG’s public programs.

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EnvironmentHealthMel ChinOperation PaydirtPolicySustainability