Environmental arts: creative reuses for turning recyclable waste materials into artistic projects

You can recycle just about anything to be reformulated re-produced, but what about putting a wide variety of clean waste materials to an artistic use? It’s one of the oldest forms of recycling – “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” But how to go about collecting and recycling waste materials for artistic projects? A couple of weeks ago, I received the following email from Susan who asked about reusing old “scraps” for artistic purposes:


How would you go about starting a nonprofit organization that’s a hybrid between environmental and arts? I’m talking about reuse — specifically, a creative reuse center. I recently learned about these wonderful places that turn trash into treasure by collecting materials that would ordinarily be discarded, and offering them for sale at very, very low prices. Sometimes it’s samples from printers, designers, and manufacturers, or clean waste materials, industrial discards or byproducts. Paper, fabric, wallpaper samples, plastic things, leftover framing materials, mill ends, scraps. Anything that’s clean and could be used for arts and crafts. I like to call it “reusables.” A lot of other cities have reuse centers.

Here are a few:

Cobb County has something similar called “Teacher’s Supply Store.” The items are offered at no charge (free!!) but as the name implies, it’s only open to teachers and home-schoolers, and it’s not open all of the time. [Similar to Materials for the Arts in New York: http://www.mfta.org/.%5D I’m looking to start a reuse center that’s open to the public, 6 days a week.

Besides featuring a variety of materials for art, the reuse stores also offer arts & crafts workshops that incorporate education about recycling and reusing – as in, “Look what you can make with this stuff instead of throwing it away!” People have fun, and less stuff goes into the landfills.

I’m running into 2 obstacles here.

  1. Location. Space is expensive. I need to find a commercial property owner to donate space to this nonprofit: retail, workshop, and possibly warehouse space.
  2. Tax-exempt status – “501(c)(3)” – this can take a while, so if we’re going to offer donors a tax deduction NOW, we need to team up with an existing nonprofit that already has tax-exempt status.

Any suggestions?

I love Susan’s idea and here were some initial thoughts that I had:

I think a good place to start may be with local galleries or art studios to get their thoughts on spaces, your target audience, etc. One that comes to mind is Wonder Root over on Memorial Drive (whom I believe is a non-profit as well). Perhaps as you start collecting materials, you could tie in with an existing gallery to offer workshops until you get your own space. Also, my friend has been looking into some fairly inexpensive studio space over in StudioPlex in Old Fourth Ward. Cheap studio space may be a way to get started while you work on a bigger place that could also serve as a warehouse.

What about going to local art festivals or art walks and talking to those artists that are already using recycled materials? They might have some ideas and it could help introduce you more to the art community.

So, I am asking all of you for your suggestions! Who do you know that might be a good contact for Susan? Someone with gallery or warehouse space? Someone willing to share a space where she could conduct workshops and classes?An existing non-profit she could get tied in with? A creative audience that would love a store like this? School teachers, parents, after-school camps who would love to take their kids there? Susan has a very well-thought-out business plan that I’m sure she’d share with interested parties – and I know there are like-minded people out there who would love this idea as much as I do! So let me know!

One Response to “Environmental arts: creative reuses for turning recyclable waste materials into artistic projects”
  1. artistatexit0 says:

    Nice content Jenny! Recycling unwanted materials into art is the way to go.

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