A single plastic spoon lying on the sidewalk is litter — 220 of them, according to one man, is art.


Earlier this summer, Mark Baldwin was wandering around Cambridge when he happened across a box of candles and plastic cutlery on the curb. An artist by trade with a penchant for using found materials in his work, Baldwin gathered the utensils and set them aside for a project he hadn’t yet conceived.


Baldwin, 26, spent his summer soaking up the cultural and artistic diversity of Cambridge. At the end of the month, he’ll return to his home in Leominster — not the one off Route 2, the one in England. As his departure approaches, Baldwin said he had been looking for a way to thank the city for three months of fun and enlightenment when he thought of the plastic forks, knives and spoons he’d found weeks earlier.

A single plastic spoon lying on the sidewalk is litter — 220 of them, according to one man, is art.

Earlier this summer, Mark Baldwin was wandering around Cambridge when he happened across a box of candles and plastic cutlery on the curb. An artist by trade with a penchant for using found materials in his work, Baldwin gathered the utensils and set them aside for a project he hadn’t yet conceived.

Baldwin, 26, spent his summer soaking up the cultural and artistic diversity of Cambridge. At the end of the month, he’ll return to his home in Leominster — not the one off Route 2, the one in England. As his departure approaches, Baldwin said he had been looking for a way to thank the city for three months of fun and enlightenment when he thought of the plastic forks, knives and spoons he’d found weeks earlier.

“I’m very interested in using recycled materials,” said Baldwin, an art student back home in England. “There’s so much that just gets thrown away, I figure why not get some use out of it?”

To show his gratitude to the city, Baldwin decided he’d use the discarded cutlery to draw a three-dimensional line through his favorite places in Cambridge, having always been fascinated with the concept of lines. Starting at the Cambridge Arts Council gallery at the City Hall Annex, he began to lay a trail of spoons, knives and forks almost more than a mile long this past Sunday, to the Cambridge Zen Center at the corner of Brookline and Valentine streets. According to Baldwin, those two points — among others — played key roles in his time spent in Cambridge.

“I thought I’d kind of tie these places together by weaving a line through them, as a thank you to the city for an enjoyable summer,” Baldwin said. “Most of my art has to do with lines, whether they’re drawn with a pencil, or they’re lines through space on a sidewalk.

“It also turns out that the place I found the cutlery was just beyond the Zen Center, on Brookline,” he added. “I thought that would be a nice way to bring the whole thing to a close.”

The line will move approximately 40 yards at a time, as far as 220 randomly arranged pieces of cutlery would stretch when placed end-to-end. The route from Point A to Point B, Baldwin said, is much less scientific than the measurements suggest. Baldwin said the line of cutlery will follow whatever existing line catches his eye en route to the Zen center.

“If there’s a crack in the pavement, I’ll often follow the crack,” Baldwin said. “If there’s a shadow of a fence or a building, I’ll follow that. I just sort of follow my instincts.”

The next two legs of his plastic path to Zen will be laid over the coming weekend, Baldwin said. At the onset, he had planned to lay the complete trail three times, but elements such as time and resources relegated him to performing the feat only once.

“The first thing I found out was that I didn’t have enough cutlery to make the whole trip in a single go,” Baldwin said. “Also, it takes a long time just to do the [40 yards]. I can tell you my legs are really aching.”

Physical strain and limited resources aren’t the only practical problems Baldwin has encountered since beginning the project. Though every stroke is indeed sacred to the artist, the same cannot be said of every passerby that happens to cross the trail of cutlery.

“A lot of cutlery got smashed,” Baldwin said. “There were a lot of people that didn’t even notice the line and would walk straight through it.”

Despite the occasionally oblivious pedestrian — and one, he said, who took exception to the concept of his piece — Baldwin said the cutlery line was largely well received.

“A lot of people were very interested, and mostly very supportive,” Baldwin said. “The best compliment I got was from a couple, who said, ‘Thank you for helping us see the space in a different way.’ I suppose that kind of sums up what I’m trying to do.”

Baldwin said he plans to begin the next stage of the line at 8:30 a.m. this Saturday at the corner of Prospect and Austin streets.

- mdunning@cnc.com, Cambridge (Mass.) Chronicle