This Trash Art Residency Makes Waste Wonderous

Geoff Sobelle’s Object Lesson/ All images courtesy of RAIR.

The apposite adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” is perhaps the best way to describe the mission of Recycled Artist In Residency (RAIR). The Philadelphia-based artist residency program that allows artists access to 400 tons of recycled trash to source materials for upcoming projects. The contemporary works created from what the program’s coordinator Lucia Thome calls “clean waste” is used to achieve the resident artist’s vision and raise awareness about sustainability issues through art and design.

“RAIR is an artist-in-residency program with traditional artist studio space but we are situated within Revolution Recovery, a construction and demolition waste recycling center. We are trying to challenge the wasteful culture specifically in art and design,” Thome tells The Creators Project.  The residency that was cofounded in 2009 by Fern Gookin and artist Billy Blaise Dufala.

Raul Romero’s HOLA

The dry wall, rubble, wood, and plastics found at RAIR have not only been used by sculptors but also filmmakers, photographers, and printmakers. Artist Geo Sobelle sourced materials from for his one-man show, Object Lesson, and RAIR fabricated a proposed posthumous monument by the artist Terry Adkins for Monument Lab. Using the recycling yard, artist Mary Ellen Carroll developed a music genre called “waste music” where she built an amphitheater out of reusable crashed metal and held an audience-less music festival in the yard where she invited musicians to make music by shredding metal. The project was recently exhibited during ICA 50 at the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia.

RAIR presents an opportunity for artist to experiment freely with new materials for free. “Artists spend hundreds of dollars on supplies and they are kind of stuck with needing to make something out of those supplies,” says Thome. “I think using recycle materials frees up the artist,” she adds.

J. Louise Makary, Untitled

RAIR along with Recology in San Francisco are leading the charge to nurture relationships between artists and recycling centers. It is an movement closely linked to sustainability and the outsider art genre but it the opportunity to experiment with new material is not tied to any aesthetic or art form.  

“One of our of goals for 2016 is to get people here to see the trash because you don’t understand the scope until you see it,” says Thome. “In the next couple of years we are hoping to bolster our exhibition component and bring visibility to what can happen at RAIR to the public,” explains Thome. “We also want to develop our education program so people can learn about the recycling process.”

Terry Adkin’s proposed Monument Lab project.

Mohamed Bourissa's Horse Day

To learn more about RAIR, click here.


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