By Joseph Robertia
What is waste to some could be a wealth of artistic materials to others. That is the hope of organizers of ReGroup’s Salvage Art Exhibit scheduled to take place at the Kenai River Festival from June 7 to 9 at Soldotna Creek Park.
“This will be our first time doing it so we don’t really know what to expect, but people are already excited about it,” said Jan Wallace, of ReGroup.
Salvage art, sometimes referred to as junk art, is artwork primarily comprised of components that have been discarded, sometimes literally being pulled from the trash. This encompasses a wide variety of mediums, including eggshells, CDs, kitchen utensils, wooden pallets, tools, aluminum cans, car parts, scrap metal and old electronic devices.
“At ReGroup, we are always looking for ways to encourage people to reuse or repurpose things rather than just throwing them away,” Wallace said.
This can be more challenging than it sounds, possibly taking weeks to accumulate materials, which is the reason ReGroup is calling for artists now.
“The challenge of this type of art is finding the materials,” said Paul Tornow, a local artist with experience in salvage art. He constructed the 18-foot-high, 23-foot-long moose sculpture made entirely of scrap metal that resides outside of Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus, where Tornow received his bachelor of fine arts degree.
“I’ve been fortunate to have people give me things, but it can be tough. They don’t really want you going to the dump to gather materials,” he said.
Thinking about ways to find and better use typically discarded items is part of the point, though, according to Wallace. ReGroup, a nonprofit educational assemblage, formed in 1989 when a group of concerned people began developing public awareness and educational campaigns on the benefits of waste reduction, reuse and recycling. ReGroup also provides support and assistance to communities and local government’s waste management efforts through community events like Caring for the Kenai, Kenai Aluminum Can Round-Up, and the HEA Energy Fair.
For the upcoming exhibit, there will be two age divisions — 12 to 18 years old, and 18 and older. There also will be three categories of art — large sculptures greater than 2 feet tall, small sculptures less than 2 feet tall, and containers made from vessels, bases, bowls or bags.
Ninety percent or more of a creation should be reused materials, not including paint, fasteners or others modes of attachment. The structure should also be securely assembled with sharp edges avoided or with a protective covering.
The concept of how the salvage art exhibit will be part of the Kenai River Festival evolved when Wallace pitched the idea to the Kenai Watershed Forum’s Lisa Beranek, who coordinates the annual festival.
“Jan was interested in having a recycled material art exhibit at the festival. Through a discussion on increasing the efficiency of the event’s recycling efforts, the artistic component seemed like a natural fit as the festival focuses on celebrating the Kenai River and sharing ways the community can help protect its health and vitality,” Baranek said.
The Kenai Watershed Forum has many educational campaigns and cleanup days for fishing line, lures and the like, all of which can harm wildlife if not disposed of properly.
“Both fishing line and hazardous waste can be properly collected and recycled on the Kenai Peninsula,” Baranek said.
Other discarded items are not as commonly linked to the health of the river, but anything that ends up in the landfill will eventually affect the environment in some way, so improving the efficiency of the local recycling program is supported by the Watershed Forum.
“Recycling is a big part of river protection,” Baranek said.
She said that the hope is the exhibit will not reduce the amount of discarded materials, but also create more awareness of the environmental benefits of recycling.
“I loved the idea of bringing people together around interesting art pieces to share information on effective recycling to protect the river,” Beranek said.
To register a piece of art, bring the entry or entries to Soldotna Creek Park between 3 and 6 p.m. June 7. Exhibit entries will be on display throughout the Kenai River Festival. A Viewer’s Choice Award will be recognized at 3 p.m. June 9 at the festival main stage.
For more information, visit ReGroup on Facebook or call Jan Wallace at 252-2773.