Turning Junk into Art
Andrea Stuart and Melanie Janzen are bubbling with excitement as they display the items lining the shelves at ArtsJunktion. “Many businesses have items they regard as garbage and we see as treasures,” says Andrea. “Paper and fabric offcuts, clear containers, cardboard tubes, foam – we know how useful these materials are for artists and educators. And bringing them to ArtsJunktion keeps them out of the landfill.”
Both women are dynamic educators. Melanie is a Learning Support Teacher with a passion for the environment. Andrea teaches Grade One and her enthusiasm for the arts recently led to a Canadian Art Educator of the Year Award. In 2007 they were inspired by learning about a long-running program in Toronto that provided recycled art materials for schools. They brought together a team of volunteers who shared their interests in arts and the environment and created ArtsJunktion Manitoba, a non-profit organization with the goal of “recycling treasures for all who work with art and children.”
The program was originally run from temporary space in the Seven Oaks School Division. Now, with the help of a Sustainable Community Grant from ACU, Arts Junktion has a permanent home at 312B William, next to The Cre8ery. This new downtown storage depot is a hub for collecting and storing recycled materials which are then made available free of charge to educators and artists.
Businesses and crafters are learning about ArtsJunktion and beginning to donate a wide range of surplus materials. “You never know what you are going to get,” says Andrea recalling a surprise delivery of 400 blown out duck eggs and full Easter Egg decorating supplies. “Teachers could never afford that. Before ArtsJunktion, teachers had to go out and buy supplies. There was a small budget from schools, and families would save materials, but then teachers had to find storage space. Parents would be surprised to learn how much comes from teachers’ own pockets.”
ArtsJunktion doesn’t only help teachers; it also supplies materials to a number of urban arts organizations like Art City and the Art Beat Studio. It’s even provided materials to elders teaching arts and language in St. Theresa Point First Nation. A member of the community collected supplies from ArtsJunktion and arranged for them to be flown in free of charge.
The volunteers have been kept busy setting up the new depot, but they aren’t stopping there. ArtsJunktion is running workshops for teachers on how to create art using recycled materials. It is also partnering with DASCH (Direct Action in Support of Community Homes) to collect donated materials while providing volunteer work placements for adults with developmental disabilities.
How do busy teachers manage to run ArtsJunktion in their spare time? “Our success is due to really committed volunteers,” says Melanie.