While a growing number of craftsmen are working with other people’s discards, Recology, a California resource recovery company, actually pays artists to turn trash into art.
In 1990 Recology began a unique art and education program. The company selected artists to work full time for four months in a large, well-equipped studio next to its transfer station in San Francisco. The transfer station is located within a 46-acre property that includes several recycling facilities and the public disposal area (aka “the dump”). Most of San Francisco’s garbage is temporarily stored at this site before moving on to a landfill elsewhere in California.
Recology changed its name from Norcal Waste Systems in 2009 to reflect its corporate culture and values. More than a private, employee-owned waste management company, the company wants to encourage people to reuse material, think about new ways to conserve resources, and support local, professional artists.
Artists are selected by an advisory board of environmentalists, artists and curators; each recipient receives a $1,000 monthly grant to cover basic personal bills.
At the end of each residency, the company holds a free public reception and exhibition of the artist’s work in the company’s studio. As visitors enter, they are confronted with a mountain of trash. They then see how imagination turns discards into meaningful objects.
The artists roam the public disposal area with shopping carts, collecting different types of trash. One may look for furniture, trinkets, photos and other personal objects, for found object collages, while another looks for raw materials such as wood, painted metal or wire for assemblage.
Some of the trash art is exhibited permanently in Recology’s three-acre sculpture garden atop a hill overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The garden is located between the garbage and recycling facilities and the Little Hollywood neighborhood. Many pieces from the program are also exhibited in office buildings, schools and other public or private spaces in the city. The garden is a stop for students on one of the 160 tours held throughout the year.
A new exhibit, “The Art of Recology” can now be seen in the United Terminal at the San Francisco International Airport. Celebrating the Recology San Francisco Artist in Residence program, it presents over 100 works by 45 artists, made during the time they worked in the studio at the Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Facility. It will be on public view through October 27. Below are images of art included in this exhibit.
To learn more, visit the Recology website.