Trash and Treasures

Second chances at the Recycled Art Expo


If you’re a resident of Bellingham, chances are good you’re aware of your individual impact on Planet Earth’s environment and devote time each week separating paper, plastic and glass refuse for the purpose of recycling it—thus diverting it, at least temporarily, from the landfill. Good for you!

But a quick look at the topics that can be explored during this weekend’s annual Recycled Art & Resource Expo (RARE), which takes place April 4-5 at a variety of venues in downtown Bellingham, shows there’s a lot more that could be done with (at least some of) your trash.

For example, a workshop taking place Sat., April 5 at Dakota Art Store will focus on making “Handmade Paper from Plants & Reuse Fibers, Newsprint, and Tissue Paper.” There, instructor Rachel Simpson will teach participants how to craft homemade paper with a variety of reusable items, including newspaper, thread, plants and yarn (register in advance, and prepare to cough up $5 for a materials fee).

What to do with unwanted or unused fibers will also be highlighted at tours of the new Ragfinery on Forest Street. The nonprofit—which is part of ReUse Work’s “jobs from waste” training business—is touted as a “textile reuse center where artists, textile designers and crafters collaborate with low-income worker trainees to upcycle and repurpose donated clothes.” Ragfinery will hold its grand opening celebration the day before RARE gets going, on Thurs., April 3, and will also be open for tours from 10am-5pm Sat., April 5. Additionally, the 4,000-square-foot space will be the locale for a duo of two-hour workshops on Saturday focusing on how to create masks, costumes and percussion instruments from recycled materials for May’s Procession of the Species. Carol Oberton and Christian Smith from Start Here Community Arts will helm the gatherings, so you’ll be in good hands (or claws or flippers, depending on the costume).

To get a clearer picture of the vast options artists have for making trash into treasure, show up for an opening reception for the annual “Recycled Art Exhibit” Friday night at Allied Arts, or peruse the works of the nearly two dozen local artists who contributed pieces to the show throughout the day on Saturday. The Reuse Thrift Store at the gallery will also be open for business both those days, and will be offering a “Bag-It Sale,” where anything you can cram in to a small bag is $5 (medium bags are $10, and large bags are $15).

But that’s not all. There’ll be recycled art activities Friday and Saturday at the Family Interactive Gallery at Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building, tours of that space’s sustainably built and maintained architecture Sunday afternoon, an exhibit at Creative Spaces on Cornwall Avenue, a presentation on “How Re-purpose Can Spark Small, Local Manufacturing” early on Friday at Allied Arts, a noontime “Re-Use, Re-Cycle, Re-Purpose Revue” featuring puppets at the iDiOM Theater Saturday, and, later that day, music by Millie & the Mentshn and Clearbrook Dixie Band.

At the end of the weekend, it’s likely you’ll have a clearer picture of what creative reuse looks like, and how you can be a part of diverting even more so-called trash from the dump. Does this mean you should stop recycling and keep each and every aluminum can and wine bottle for your creative pursuits? That’s up to you to decide.

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