Turn trash into art

BMAC invites the public to clean up the Connecticut River on Sept. 23, 30

BRATTLEBORO — "Trash is trash - smelly, gross, harmful to the land and plants and animals," say Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) organizers. But re-purpose trash and transform it into art, and not only are destructive materials removed from the environment, but the potential is also created to make a powerful statement about consumerism, conservation, optimism, and creativity.

On two consecutive Saturdays this month, the BMAC, along with the Connecticut River Conservancy and the River Gallery School, invite the public to participate in an exploration of trash and art.

First, on Saturday, Sept. 23, a team will pull debris out of the river during the Connecticut River Conservancy's 27th annual Source to Sea Cleanup. Volunteers can join the Cleanup by checking in at the Retreat Farm or Vermont Canoe Touring Center anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and help with trash collection for as long as they'd like.

The public is invited to walk the banks of the river or take a boat onto the water and see how much they can find. The Vermont Canoe Touring Center will offer $10 off canoe and kayak rentals for this event.

Then, on Saturday, Sept. 30, BMAC Lead Educator Kate Milliken will be at the River Gallery School presenting a Found Materials Sculpture Workshop using the plastic trash collected from the Connecticut River-cleaned and prepared to be used as art materials.

The workshop is inspired by the museum's current exhibition, "Aurora Robson: Human Nature Walk," in which the artist uses plastic waste to create intricate, lyrical installations that she says take trash "out of the waste stream and turn its longevity into an asset."

Participants can connect to Robson's work through experiential learning, according to Kirsten Martsi, manager of the BMAC's Education and Community Engagement Programs. "We'll take waste that would have gone to landfills and create art from it, generating new ideas for sculpture materials and design."

For Milliken, the workshop is an opportunity for people to "see the many lives that 'forever' plastics can have, all while they explore their own creativity and self-expression through art making." She will guide participants in building mobiles and wind chimes-to take home-with the hope that using "an ugly or unsightly piece of trash" in an art project "might inspire folks to find new ways to incorporate plastic waste items in their lives."

According to the Connecticut River Conservancy, the Source to Sea Cleanup, which happens at numerous locations along the entire 410-mile river, is not only an effort to pick up trash for a day, "it is also a catalyst for lasting change," inspiring the public to think more deeply about recycling and upcycling waste, and working for legislative action that lessens trash in the first place.

In 2022, more than 1,200 volunteers in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut participated in the Cleanup, collecting more than 34 tons of trash, including almost 12,400 beverage containers and nearly 8,000 pounds of scrap metal.

The public is welcome to participate in the Sept. 23 Cleanup, the Sept. 30 sculpture workshop, or both. There is no charge to join the Cleanup. Admission to the workshop is $20 ($10 for BMAC members). Space for the workshop is limited and registration required. Register at or call 802-257-0124, ext. 101.

This The Arts item was submitted to The Commons.

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