The art of recycling

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Unbeknownst to you, your friendly neighborhood artist could also be a fierce eco-warrior.

Those creative types will be much easier to spot during the sixth annual “Recycled Arts Resource Expo” (RARE), a two-day event helmed by Allied Arts that takes place at a variety of venues in downtown Bellingham and aims to school the community on the role the arts can play in the ever-evolving sustainability movement.

A “ReArt” exhibit opening Fri., April 6 during the monthly Art Walk in downtown Bellingham will kick off the action at Allied Arts by displaying the works of nearly 30 area artists who sourced 75 percent or more of their materials in a sustainable manner.

Through April 28, visitors to the Cornwall Avenue gallery can view pieces by artists like Barbara Siegele, whose canny collages use mostly recycled paper. Bev Connor creates wood burnings on repurposed household items, giving them intricate wildlife designs worth a closer look. Terry Kaye’s sculptures and barrettes use a wide variety of post-consumer products, and Erick Brown created a sculpture using an old meat grinder, which he reimagined by “grinding” Christmas lights into EL wire.

Other materials used by participating artists include rugs woven from fabric and previously used yarn, stainless steel sourced from old appliances, upcycled glass candle holders, rebar, toilet paper rolls, found objects, repurposed magazine pages, driftwood, stones, mirrors, teapots and beyond.

Education is also an important part of RARE, and events taking place throughout the day Saturday will be both enlightening and entertaining. Workshops and presentations include “Washtub Bass with Thor Myhre” at Ruckus Art Gallery (wherein attendees will build their own mini-washtub bass instrument from a coffee can); “Salvaging Safely” with Katie Nolan of Uptown Junk at Allied Arts (that ensures all DIYers and scrappers are taking the proper measures to stay safe); “Tapestry Weaving” and “Coil Baskets” at Ragfinery; and “Snaps & Leather Scraps” led by Tamara Clammer, a Seattle-based leather-worker and teaching artist with a passion for creative reuse and lifelong learning.

Performances, speakers, panel discussions, additional exhibits and booths will also be part of RARE, which Allied Arts services coordinator Katy Tolles notes wouldn’t be possible without strong community support.

“I’m excited that RARE is still going strong,” Tolles says. “Our partnerships with other organizations like Ragfinery, the RE Store, Ruckus Gallery, and Wandering Oaks Gallery have been wonderful and a great way to keep our programming new and fresh each year.”

If you’re living in or visiting Skagit County during the same time frame, be aware the Anacortes Arts Commission will be hosting a “Repurposed” exhibit April 6-7 at the city’s Depot Arts Center, 611 R Ave. The upcycled, recycled and mixed-media show will feature works by, among others, Anita Mayer, Karla Locke, Heidi Klepper, Heidi Brewer-Peters, Edward Flitcroft, Ann Lee, and Sabina Kane.

Attending these related events in Bellingham or Anacortes will likely make it crystal clear that artists in Whatcom and Skagit counties are focused not only on making art, but also on saving the world—one used can of paint, meat grinder or toilet paper roll at at time.

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