Skip to main content

Recycling With Arts For Life!

April 22, 2015 | By Rachel Zink

It’s a common experience when you’re an Arts For Life teacher: A healthcare staff member—from pharmacy, nutrition services, or administrative services—approaches your table with a sheepish grin, clutching a load of cast-off recyclables from their department. They say, “I thought you guys could figure out something cool to do with THIS. I just hated to throw it away!”

For Asheville Program Director Annie Rogers, “this” has turned out to be (in no particular order) an armful of 24-inch floppy foam pieces, a stack of 10-inch-thick Styrofoam squares, and a plastic bag filled with never-used orange medicine bottles. “This” has been an unopened sleeve of cardboard soup lids, the cardboard backs to pads of paper, odd collections of the most elaborate plastic packing materials known to mankind, and the list goes on.

Hospital staff come to Arts For Life tables with complete confidence that (hospital-approved!) recyclables can find new lives as works of art in the hands of our students. And they’re right! Those Styrofoam squares? Kids made spider web prints. The soup lids? Snowman ornaments. The medicine bottles? Well, those are in our Asheville storage closet, awaiting just the right idea…

On this 45th anniversary of Earth Day, Arts For Life continues our commitment to creating unique, student-made art with materials that may otherwise end up in a landfill. It’s a process that starts with a simple act of conservation and ends with beautiful, whimsical, touching, thought-provoking, synergistic artwork that indisputably makes our delicate world an even more beautiful place.

For proof of this, one need only to look to our Winston-Salem chapter’s 2014 show “Outside the Box: Re-Purposing Cardboard for Creative Pursuits,” an art exhibit dedicated entirely to giving a second life to an everyday household material. For the show, our Winston students created colorful masks, animal totems, and one-of-a-kind collages, elevating this mundane material to a status fit for the walls of one of the Southeast’s most revered museums, SECCA! See pics from the show’s opening night here.

But even when not preparing for an exhibit, Arts For Life students across the state regularly leave art tables with magazine button flowers, altered book sculptures, and newspaper collages. And, they leave knowing that they’re making art with a purpose: doing their part to contribute to the preservation of our planet’s natural resources.

Interested in making art from repurposed materials—this Earth Day and beyond? Try our Water Bottle Crowns lesson!