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Getting TRASHed Constructively
Saturday, January 05, 2008

They’ve been to Coachella, the X-Games, the White House and even Hollywood’s red carpet. Artist Renee Lawter has photographic evidence of where hers has been, “I have a picture of Eva Longoria and Jessica Simpson sort of looking confused looking at it.” The “they” and “it” in this case are the custom made recycling bins that artists like Lawter have been creating through TRASHed :: Art of Recycling for nearly half a decade.

TRASHed :: Art of Recycling is a program that Los Angeles based non-profit Global Inheritance started in 2002 after Eric Ritz, the group’s Executive Director, noticed people at concerts and festivals weren’t really recycling. “We were trying to come up with a way to make it more engaging,” he explains, “and make people want to recycle.” Two ideas were born from that brainstorm, the first was a trash recycling store where the only currency accepted was bottles and cans collected on-site and the second was TRASHed. Ritz notes “TRASHed actually stands for Trash Education.” What the group does is take recycling bins and uses them as canvases. “We design them based on either artwork, or themed along the event, and get people to want to engage with them, so rather than having your normal green or black bin that doesn’t really say much we’ve created this collection of recycling bins that speak to the audience and make people want to interact and recycle in a way that maybe they didn’t think about before.”

Lawter joined up with TRASHed because she knew Ritz from their days at working at Jnco together. She now runs her own design business called Eyerus with two other partners in West Hollywood, but doesn’t get to do a lot of artwork there as she’s more on the business side of things. The allure of TRASHed was one part Ritz, whom Lawter saw, and continues to see, as “really making a push to do something different,” and one part her want to do art again. “I decided I needed to get back into art because I was missing doing that,” she explains, “at the same time Eric was looking for artists and had asked me if I wanted to do a trash bin and I thought God, yeah, that’s amazing.” The reaction to the idea has been similar with other artists and would-be recyclers.

Jasmin Zeger, Special Projects Coordinator at Global Inheritance, has an inkling as to why the artistic bins draw in so many people. “Anytime you can harness the ability of a creative talent to speak to the public you know it’s gonna be popular. The art on the bins really draws your attention to them and once we’ve got people there we can really discuss the other levels of the program with them. There’s no way if you see a fuzzy bin with ladybugs on it that you’re not gonna stop and be like ‘what is this? Maybe I should rethink throwing away this bottle in the trash.’” Jenna Eyrich, Global Inheritance’s Coordinator of Music Projects, adds “at these festivals you also have a crowd that’s more inclined to be artistic, or willing to notice things like that, so when they go up to this art piece they realize that it’s a recycling bin, which adds a whole other dimension to the experience.”

The experience for Lawter and the other artists is that of being creative while making a difference. “Even if it’s only with me being creative,” she notes, “it still means something. To me that was the biggest thing. I paint all the time, but when I paint for a non-profit it’s a pretty amazing feeling. You feel like you’re doing something on top of being creative. You’re doing something with your gift.” She adds that working with TRASHed has been especially rewarding because “we’re all used to seeing different organizations out there that deal with non-profit, but sometimes I feel like they’re really kind of crunchy granola. I think people are eager to have information like this provided to them in sort of a hip way.”

If travel miles are any indicator Lawter’s very right in her assessment of what people want. TRASHed has done exhibits all over the country, including their native California, New York and Atlanta, and have even traveled across the northern border into Toronto. In 2006 the group did an exhibit at the Virgin Festival dedicated to the films of John Waters where they had cast members and set designers from his various films create bins based on Waters’ big screen work. Afterwards the bins were donated to an art school in Baltimore, which is an act Ritz sees a lot of value in, noting “it makes the festival even more excited about the programs because it gives them the ability to leave a positive footprint after the festival is over.” A positive footprint, and a much cleaner and more visually stimulating concert grounds.

Related Links

Global Inheritance: GlobalInheritance.org
Renee Lawter: Idlego.com

Story originally ran in issue #21 of Foam Magazine


posted by Adam Bernard @ 3:43 PM  
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