Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reuse Rodeo – Rounding up Resources in Orange County

Orange County Solid Waste Management Hosts First Ever Reuse Rodeo

by Muriel Williman

On Saturday April 2, Orange County Solid Waste Management hosted the first ever Reuse Rodeo, in cooperation with the Triangle Reuse Alliance and four local reuse-based non-profit organizations – Club Nova, the Recyclery, Interfaith Council for Social Services and The Scrap Exchange. By all measures, it was a great success in materials collected, publicity for the organizations involved and diversion from the landfill. The idea was to raise awareness about non-profits in our community that promote reuse, and also to help those organizations receive materials that they could use in their operations.

As part of the collaboration, the Triangle Reuse Alliance also created a guide for Orange County Reuse Organizations to serve for those wishing to give their used but usable goods a second home (see attached). All of the participating non-profits agreed that the event surpassed their expectations in terms of turnout, materials received and over all great community connections.

The ReCYCLEry received 17 bikes and various bike parts including a brand new set of training wheels. The ReCYCLEry will shine up these rides and give them to kids in our community. In exchange for volunteer hours individuals learn to fix up bikes, and by fixing bikes for others, can earn their own bike to ride.

The Inter-Faith Council received over 60 reusable cloth bags, 30 reusable grocery bags (from Trader Joes and other locations), 10 backpacks, and two paper grocery bags filled with tissue wrapping paper. The IFC will fill these bags with food and personal care items to give to clients that come to their facilities.

Club Nova loaded a mini van full of goods to go into their thrift store, ready for spring projects. Collection included 60 planters, 15 picture frames, garden and household tools of all types-- two chainsaws, an electric sharpener, a cordless drill, a toolbox filled with hand tools, a skilsaw, a bow saw, pruning shears and a grass trimmer.

The Scrap Exchange filled their van with craft supplies including enough blue denim to cover a couch, 13 boxes, swaths and rolls of beautiful fabric, 6 boxes of sewing notions such as quilting supplies, sewing needles, buttons, curtains and hooks. They also received 14 boxes of various craft supplies including clay figurines ready to paint, pinecones, bottle caps and wine corks.

The 30 individual donors that came to the event heard about the about it through various means—the Chapel Hill News, Chapel Hill Herald, WCHL, WXDU, neighborhood and church listservs, email, the Solid Waste webpage, and word of mouth were all mentioned. Several people just stopped by, drawn in by the colorful signage and frisky activity in the Solid Waste Administrative Office parking lot. In keeping with the Rodeo theme, the event was given additional color by volunteers sporting cowboy hats, recycled art, colorful signs and banners, and the cowboys playing guitar and singing cowboy songs. Will & Pops food truck provided the vittles, so no one went away hungry.

This event will serve as a model for other “Reuse Rodeos” in the future. There are two more Reuse Rodeos coming up in the Triangle, one in Raleigh on May 21st and the other in Cary in June. Founder and Executive Director of the National Reuse Alliance, Mary Ellen Etienne, was present and said she could see this as the start of a national movement.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Not Afraid To Get DURTY

A conversation with Julia Gartrell,
founding member of DURTY DURHAM art collective
by Ruth Eckles and Sarah Cress

Scrap Exchange customers know store manager Julia Gartrell as the friendly face behind the cash register, quick with a laugh and a helpful suggestion for an art project. What they may not know is she is also an accomplished artist, a world traveler (recent trips include Guatemala and Hong Kong), and one of the founders of DURTY, a frolicsome Durham art collective with a D.I.Y. flavor.

DURTY evolved in Gartrell’s basement 3 years ago where she and her former high school buddies from Durham School of the Arts would often gather to make art projects and talk shop. All recent college graduates, the group was feeling adrift in the 9-to-5 grind. Needing a way to consistently create art in order to stay sane, they met once a week. Eventually, the group grew to include more people with more ideas and needed room to expand. They rented studio space on Chapel Hill Street and began to get more serious about the business of being a collective.

Collectives operate under the “two heads are better than one” adage. Sharing ideas, resources, perspectives, and skill sets often provides more opportunities and greater artistic reach than an artist can get alone. But for DURTY, it’s also a way to simply have more fun. Fueled by coltish energy, the youthful group (aged mostly from late high-school to early 20’s) thrives on planning zany community events. Pastimes include eclectic combinations such as a bike race/scavenger hunt, a dance and piñata party, regular movie nights, and of course no art exhibition would be complete without marshmallow roasting and S’mores.

The current Scrap Exchange show (“A Durty Room”) takes the Green Gallery space and transforms it into a curious skid-row-meets-Etsy playhouse. Using a surprising array of Scrap Exchange materials, DURTY re-imagines clear CD cases and laminated architect blueprints into lamps, discarded VHS tapes become a coffee table, burlap coffee bean sacks transform themselves into couches and chairs. The tour de force of the show hangs from the center of the room: a beautiful glowing chandelier made out of dozens of tiny glass bottles that dangle from fishing line. In true DURTY spirit, the space encourages participation and play and gives a wonderful sense of the possibilities of creative reuse.  We hope you’ll come see it.

"A Durty Room" is on exhibit in the Green Gallery through April 9.  The DURTY artists participating in this exhibit include Chris Martz, Max Dorsey, Lisa Keaton, Patrick Phelps-McKeown, Curtis Cushman, Allie Mullin, Amy Campbell, Nicole Hogan, Julia Gartrell, Thomas Kellum, Daniel Kamiya, Cade Carlson, Bryan Crabtree, and Vicky Mazzia.

Last week, I was able to meet with Gartrell in her home and we discussed DURTY over macaroni and cheese. What follows is a bit of our conversation. To learn more about DURTY, you can go to their website at

What made you want to start an art collective? A lot of the core founders of DURTY went to high school together at Durham School of the Arts. We all went our separate ways and did different things in college. A lot of us came back from college and realized we didn’t really have a plan, and didn’t have a supportive art group that we needed and that we’d always had during high school and college. So we would get together and make art in my basement for fun. Then we decided it might be good to formalize things a little more so we could do things on a bigger scale.
Has it gone like you expected, or have there been some surprises? I think in some ways we’ve really surpassed what I expected us to do. I think in the beginning it was more like a social club and a reason to hang out. But it definitely evolved into something more professional than we’d expected. We started out as a peer art collective and we’ve really moved away from that. We do much less art now than we used to, and more event planning, music, and scene making. We’ve had some growing pains with figuring out how to make our events feasible and how to turn it more into a business.
Tell me a little bit about the core members and what sorts of things they bring to the table? We have a pretty diverse group in terms of interests and talent. There’s somewhere between 8 and 10 people who come regularly to the meetings. Almost everyone has a background in art of some sort. We have a classical musician, a motions graphic designer, several fine artists, a photographer. We all share an interest in art, but we all come at it from different angles. Even within the members who do fine art, the skill sets vary—painters, sculptors, photographers.
What’s the most fun thing about being part of a collective? The fun part is having a group where you can say “I have this idea…I really want to throw this crazy party with a bunch of piñatas”, and having a medium to make that happen. The collaborative aspect of working with a group is really cool. I wouldn’t be doing some of the things I’ve done if it hadn’t been for the support, and the sharing of ideas that comes with working with a group. It gives you a way to think on a bigger scale.
If DURTY had a personality, what would it be like? Oh my God…(laughs)…schizophrenic? Actually, the individual members are pretty laid back, and I think as a group we’re pretty laid back as well. We’re a pretty multi-faceted organization. It’s a lot of creative people, a lot of forces of will. I think we probably generally just come off as young, creative people.