The Arts Paper march 2015
Trash to Treasure organization upcycles garbage cooper wall
t this point in time, it’s almost impossible to avoid the triangular gaze of the recycling symbol. Everything we recycle is used again, turned into yet another thing we will have to recycle in a purgatorial environmental loop. This isn’t to say that the reuse of objects in itself is bad. It is, on the contrary, a rather necessary process if we are to protect the environment. There is an alternative to the cycle of recycling, however, and a more beautiful one. This is the process of upcycling, the reuse of waste in newly constructed objects. This is exactly what the Art Council’s newest member organization does. Founded in response to rising levels of both greenhouse gases and more terrestrial trash, EcoWorks is an organization that provides artists an alternative to traditional recycling. The organization’s concept is relatively simple: Donations
of waste materials ranging from maps to sheets of metal to upholstery fabric are given to EcoWorks, Ecoworks sells said “waste” to artists, the artists do their thing, and soon waste has been upcycled into art. One man’s trash, after all, is an artist’s next project. In addition to the upcycling store, EcoWorks offers two other types of services. First, to pair with the junk warehouse, a consignment shop-slash-art boutique selling, as its website puts it, “everything from clothing and jewelry to lawn ornaments, decorative arts and furniture.” In other words, the New Haven facility is a nearly self-contained version of upcycling, nurturing, and requiring the catalytic abilities of artists. EcoWorks is able to provide the beginnings of artistic works through the warehouse as well as one possible ending to said works through the consignment shop. What, then, of the middle of the process? How does one get from point A to point B? For the burgeoning artist who is unsure of how to dive into the scrap pile or the experienced upcycler looking for a touch of guidance on a new project, EcoWorks offers a number of events, classes, and workshops. At press time, there is only
one upcoming event listed on the organization’s website (“i.heart.trash,“ a silent auction and concert to raise money for all things trash), but past events have ranged from a traditional art workshop to a compost-pile labyrinth. Literally. These provide a bridge from warehouse to consignment, providing the last link in the cycle of upcycling. EcoWorks is almost an artistic microcosm unto itself, the beginning, middle, and end to any junk-driven artistic venture. The newest member to the arts council comes with a bit of a pedigree as well. Sherill Baldwin, one of EcoWorks’ founding members as well as its current chair, has more than 25 years of experience in resource and materials management, including a current job with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. In all regards, EcoWorks seems like an organization fully dedicated to art and the environment, both individually and as one entity. n Learn more at ecoworksct.org.
“EcoWorks is almost an artistic microcosm unto itself, the beginning, middle, and end to any junk-driven artistic venture.”
Cooper Wall, a student at Bennington College, is an Arts Council intern.
8 • newhavenarts.org
march 2015 •
Arts news and happenings from around Greater New Haven.