Students Transform Trash Into Art for Earth Day Contest

by Diane VanDyke

Most used soda cans end up in trash cans, or in the best of circumstances, in recycling bins.  However, art student Dominic Brown turned these aluminum discards into a unique sculpture. His “Dew Board,” a skateboard crafted from Mountain Dew soda cans, won first place in Montgomery County Community College’s first annual Recycled Art Competition.

Dominic Brown won 1st place for "Dew Board."

Brown also garnered second place with his baseball bench in which he re-used old skateboards, bats and baseballs.  And, third place went to Andrew Kunz, who recycled computer parts for his sculpture, “Brain Fried.”

Dominic Brown also took second place for his recycled sports bench.

Andrew Kunz won third place for his piece "Brain Fried."

Whether the sculptures won a prize or not, they carried a symbolic message for the rest of the campus—there are numerous creative ways to recycle and re-use materials to keep discarded items out landfills, off the streets and out of rivers and streams. Using a variety of found items, such as plastic bottles, old books, wires, cables, rebar and old clothes, the students fashioned sculptures that were both inspiring and interesting.

“I never used recycled materials before,” Michel Amabile said. “It’s a lot less expensive, and I’ll probably do more projects using recycled items.”

“It’s cool to bring new life to objects that people think of as junk,” Chelsea Allen said.

Chelsea Allen with her untitled piece made from wires, cables and light.

The Recycled Art Competition was a combined effort between Art instructor Chloris Lowe’s 247 Advanced Sculpture class and and Assistant Professor Tom Donlan’s  SPC 125 Introduction to Public Relations class.  As part of the course work, Donlan’s students must plan a public relations campaign to support some aspect the College’s sustainability commitment and ongoing initiatives. The Recycled Art Competition was a way to engage students in recycling and spread the message about its importance.

This year’s art participants included Courtney Baltrush, Steven Flynn, Chelsea Allen, Diana Ta, Michel Amabile, Dominic Brown and Andrew Kunz.

Diane Ta with her piece "The Squid."

Students displayed their artwork in the lobby of the Advanced Technology Center during Earth Day Week, April 18-22. During this time, faculty, staff, students and visitors voted on their favorite sculptures, and the top three winners were awarded gift cards donated by Blick Art Materials, Utrecht Art Supplies and Rainbow Arts and Crafts.

“This was a nice start to something I hope will be a yearly event as part of the Earth Day Week activities,” Lowe said. “The students who entered the competition enjoyed it. I hope, as time goes by, more people will take part and be aware of it.”

Michael Amabile with his piece "American Wasteland."

In addition to the Recycled Art Sculpture contest, Lowe also involved the students from his 145 Introduction to Woodworking class by creating a wooden bench made from reclaimed lumber. The students donated the finished bench to the College on April 20, during Earth Day celebration festivities.

Lowe secured the wood from a deconstruction site in Philadelphia where several row homes were gutted and torn down.

“I really like how we are using reclaimed wood and not chopping down trees for this project,” Jennifer Acciavatti said, as she helped to measure and cut the wood to shape.

Over the course of three weeks, the students designed, built and stained the bench. The participants included Amanda Kent, Paul Wojcik, Adrian Ferguson, Michel Amabile and Jennifer Acciavatti.

From left, students Amanda Kent, Jennifer Acciavatti, Paul Wojcik and Michel Amabile with Art Instructor Chloris Lowe created this bench using reclaimed lumber from a deconstruction site.

“Using lumber coming out of decrepit houses that was destined for a landfill is a wonderful way to re-use material,” Lowe said. “These were 80 to 90-year-old homes and the beams were three inches thick and six to 10 inches wide. The bench makes good use of this material, and it’s good material to use. The nail marks adds to the character.”

Adjunct Art Instructor Chloris Lowe works on the bench with his students.

Lowe has a Master of Fine Arts in Furniture Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D Multimedia from the University of Wisconsin. He started teaching at Montgomery County Community College in 2010 and has his own business, Lowe Space Art Place Design Studios in Philadelphia, where he designs and builds custom furniture and sculptures.

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All photos by Diane VanDyke

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