This Earth Day, on April 22, a new public art piece will be celebrated with a ribbon cutting. Chris Beck, a local artist famed for his creative work with reclaimed metal, was able to take used metal material donated to Keep Dalton-Whitfield Beautiful by the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority and turn it into a detailed sculpture. This sculpture will be placed at the Lackey Family and 5th Avenue Pocket Park at 1000 Morris St., and the old metal will be turned into a new bridge and display silhouettes of people from Dalton doing various activities as they enjoy the outdoors and each other’s company.

This style of art is called often called recycled, reclaimed or upcycled art and it involves taking things thought no longer useful and using creativity to turn them into a work of art. While you may not have the know-how or workshop that lets you create a metal sculpture that reaches 8 feet high like Chris Beck, there are multiple ways you can start reusing items to create your own art. Here’s a few tips to help you get started.

Start by looking at what you have available first. It can be easy to get overwhelmed looking at other’s upcycled art and their materials or skills may not be similar to what you have or do. By starting with looking in your recycling bin and trash can, you can start to have your own ideas first. A beautiful calendar photo could be used with cardboard cut-outs to turn it into a three-dimensional piece or into an interesting collage. A soda can could be used to make a metal flower or a small hanging lantern depending on what you would prefer. The opportunities are only bound by your materials and imagination.

If you are struggling to find inspiration from the items, then you can move onto finding upcycled art by artists for inspiration. The aforementioned Chris Beck is one artist to get inspiration from if you are using metal. If you enjoy using found objects, look to Alejandro Durán for inspiration. For examples of collage pieces check out work by Derek Gores or Maria Rivans. You can even go nearby to the Howard Finster Paradise Garden in Summerville to see some pieces of upcycled art in person.

Lastly, be sure you have the appropriate tools. I highly recommend buying a good set of working gloves that still allow nimbleness if you plan to work with any plastic or metal items in your work. I’ve had my fair share of nicks from sharp plastic corners and accidents working with soda cans. You’ll also want to make sure you have the proper scissors or knives for any cutting you may do. Properly sharpened tools help you have better control and keep you safe. Some glues will work better for different types of materials as well. Did you know that super glue causes styrofoam to slightly melt when it comes into contact?

Now is the perfect time to hone your upcycling skills because the Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation (KGBF) is encouraging Georgia residents to get involved in creating art out of previously used materials. To enter, post a photo of your work online by Friday, April 23, and tag Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation and using the hashtag #reconsider litter. During the last week of April, KGBF will choose one winner in each of the three categories: adult; grades 6-12; and K-5. Each of the winners will get to shop local using a $50 gift certificate to a local restaurant or business of their choice. To start getting inspired you can visit kgbf.org

During Earth Month, celebrate the beauty created by nature and the beauty created by man at the same time. After all, you can’t spell Earth without “art” and our appreciation of everyday is so much brighter after we learn to appreciate the beauty all around us.

Join in the KGBF contest or attend the ribbon cutting of Chris’ new piece. However, you choose to celebrate, take the time to start looking at waste not as something to be discarded forever, but as something that could have a new use and a new life.

Amy Hartline is the recycling and education program coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. Have a recycling question? Contact her at (706) 278-5001 or at ahartline@dwswa.org.

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