Recycled goods find new life in student art projects

Pictured above: TRASH TALK AND ACTION — by student artists taking part in the first Trash to Art Competition, held Feb 2 on St. John. (Submitted by Coral Bay Community Council, S. Eanes)
ST. JOHN — The first Trash to Art Competition, held on Ground Hog’s Day, got underway at a recycling station near St. John’s Susannaberg Transfer Station. Students, teachers and volunteers spent the better part of a day turning construction leftovers and used appliances into multimedia sculptures.
Five student teams were given one hour to dig through piles of appliances, furnishings, industrial parts, wooden shipping pallets and cans of paint. For more than an hour they ripped through old bicycle tires, children’s toys, fan blades and refrigerator racks.As time passed, new images took shape — a coral reef; a mangrove with lush vegetation; a whimsical crab and the golden eagle from the Virgin Islands flag.

Gifft Hill School Environmental Science Teacher Veronica Pozas said her students asked her to organize Trash to Art after they and members of the Eudora Kean High School JROTC took part in a Youth Action Day activity in November.

The event, sponsored by the Coral Bay Community Council, was designed to raise awareness about waste management and featured a trip to the Re Source Depot.

“The competition came about because they asked me to do it,” the teacher said. “I have a team of 12 and I’d say eight of them are artists — whether they paint, whether they are photographers, whether they’re trying to do film projects and a couple of them are actual sculptors.‘They are fascinated by the idea of using art as social change,” Pozas said.

JROTC Col. Alfred Francis said he also wanted to inspire his Kean High cadets. He milled around the grounds of the recycling center, watching as one team assembled vinyl records into a sting ray collage.

Visitors come to the Virgin Islands and seeing piles of trash discourages them from visiting again, he said. “My thought process is to really try to get the cadets involved in the classes so they too can make a difference in this community,” Francis said.He pointed to one cadet, Raul Williams, as he and Gifft Hill senior Luke Patrie drilled fan blades into a chevron pattern to resemble eagle’s wings. Williams had worked in construction while in high school and had skills to help with the actual construction of art work.

Evan James, a Gifft Hill senior, took a break from his team project. They were making a whale from a chaise lounge, the cover of a home spa, with a car bumper for a giant tail.“This is a hard project because no matter what you do, it’s going to be imperfect,” he said. He and other classmates researched other trash to art projects done in other places. Those artists sometimes had eight hours to put their works together.

Organizers of Trash to Art said it took a lot of work to put the event together, but it was well worth it.

“This took a ton of time and effort and teamwork. The Coral Bay Community Council, Eudora Kean, and Gifft Hill all came together and worked as a team to make this happen for their students,” said Scott Eanes from CBCC.

“IGLA-now known as Island Green donated the use of their Resource Depot, they actually sacrificed a day of selling repurposed goods to help this get done. The interns from Gifft Hill and Dr. Dave Minner’s Earth program (all Iowa State students).

‘St. John Hardware donated material to help construct the art,” he said.
Eanes also thanked Ronnie’s Pizza N Mo’ for donating four cheese pizzas for lunch. Mumbo Jumbo, Skinny Legs, Jolly Dogs, Indigo Grill, and Dancing Rooster from Coral Bay were thanked for donating prizes to the competition.
Paul Boyko volunteered time and equipment to help the kids construct their art.
Organizers also thanked the three volunteer judges: Julius Jackson, Dhymond Nichols (artist, co-creator of Dimes and Nickles), and Alice Krall (VI Waste Management Authority).
They also said they are getting encouragement to include other high school teams and expand the recycling competition, perhaps making it an annual event.