Over the weekend in Manzanita, OR, I had the opportunity to show some of my recently created found object/trash art pieces. I participated in a fundraiser for CARTM, a unique non-profit, located at the town dump, which acts as a recyclery, thrift store and artist haven. Manzanita is a fun, open, liberal small town on the coast that I have been frequenting for over 10 years. Its programs like these that give me hope for small towns and small communities who really care and want to make a difference. I have seen organizations in cities with similar successful programs, SCRAP and the ReBuilding Center in Portland, for example. Another exciting example is The Art of Recology in San Francisco, where they have an actual artist-in-residence program at the waste transfer station. But this is the first time I have read about a smaller town just up and making it happen, with a goal of “zero waste” for the town.
The art opening on Friday night was filled with inquisitive folks. I had several conversations with people about the town itself, as well as Portland’s growth (Portland is only two hours drive away) and its effect on the coastal economy, summer crowding and particularly the strain on small towns’ ability to handle tourist waste. I felt a similar vibe with some of the people of Manzanita, as compared to folks I have met and grown to love in small town New Mexico. An ability for an artist and other working folk to make a living in these towns depends upon a certain amount of tourism, but hopefully not too much to ruin the overall cohesiveness of the town and the feeling of local ownership. P.S. People seemed to like my tie, which turned out to be an excellent conversation-starter; I found it that morning at our dispersed camping site–a broken strap from a Parr Lumber delivery, which had “Parr Lumber” printed on it.
The show had a diversity of pieces, from sculptures to mobiles to painting and reclaimed fabric arts. What I especially appreciated about the work in this show is that each piece seemed to tell a story about the life of the artist, as well as educating and inspiring people to think differently about what is possible to create out of trash. I appreciate the role of artists and storytellers in this way because maybe we can convey messages to people in a curious, hopefully non-threatening way. By showing our work and being open to criticism, uncomfortable conversations, yet ultimately rewarding ones, maybe people can get ideas as to what might be possible changes for them. It is difficult to live one’s life entirely from trash, although whole neighborhoods are devoted to it out of sheer poverty and necessity, but it is much easier than we think to glean objects of use and start to think ahead of time to “reuse” before “recycle” comes into the picture.