SPOTLIGHT ON IDYLLWILD ARTS: InterArts Recycled Art Project

The purpose of the monthly “Spotlight” series is to highlight student and faculty work here at Idyllwild Arts that is not organized by the Art in Society coordinators but is directly in line with our mission and vision.


New iPhone models are being released nearly every year. Changes in the latest fashion trends are developing at an accelerating rate. In our fast-paced consumption-driven world, it is commonplace for manufactured goods to be treated as disposable. Often, no thought is given to the life-cycle of these products, much less the resources required and the environmental issues implicated. This is not the case for students at Idyllwild.

Last spring, Abbie Bosworth organized the students of the InterArts department and asked them decide on a project and theme for the following year. The discussion was a fruitful one. Students expressed a desire to make a piece that would have an impact on the world; specifically, they were passionate about addressing environmental issues. Not only did they want to create a piece that raised awareness about global warming and waste, but they wanted the artistic process itself to be in harmony with the natural world. Responding to the students’ input, Abbie arranged for the construction of a functional recycled art sculpture to be a major department project this year.

“This topic fired up almost all of our students,” Abbie said. They were committed to creating something that “would send a message about environmental responsibility to the community.” After brainstorming and deliberation, the students decided on the theme of drought because of its timeliness and relevance in California. The recycled art sculpture, currently under construction, will have an umbrella design and will act as a functional rainwater catchment and irrigation system. The students of the InterArts department are running a campaign on campus to collect glass bottles to complete the sculpture; their efforts also serve to raise awareness about the environmental issues they are passionate about.

recycled art 6During the first two Saturdays of the school year, the InterArts department bonded by working on the sculpture. Most of the recycled materials were collected from the maintenance yard on campus, although refuse from other businesses in town was also used. Abbie involved local community members on the project. Violetta Villacorta, an expert on sustainability in fashion and contemporary art, provided the students with many inspiring examples of conceptual art made from consumer waste. Earnest Merritt, a local sculptor, provided practical help with construction.

recycled art 5Abbie was very pleased with the initiative of the students. “I want to pull this theme across the whole InterArts department and make it our focus for this academic year.” Abbie also described the potential to explore the theme of sustainability in the InterArts fashion classes. The fashion industry “can be notorious for having a negative impact on the environment and for using a lot of resources” and it would be valuable to “focus on ways for fashion designers to think about designing with an awareness for taking care of our planet.”

Like many other students involved in the project, Eleonora Beran-Jahn found the process very meaningful. “Recycled art is important because it keeps us thinking about the past and the future at the same time.” She noted how the project shifted the way that students thought of waste. “In a bigger sense, this world is recycled, this era and the one after this one, we are all recycled.” Although she had known of recycled art before, Eleonora found herself considering new ways that trash could be used as a creative medium. “The project has really got me thinking of all the possible things I can do with recycled objects, and what doing so means to me, to the piece, and to others… To me, recycled objects have more meaning that brand new ones… I am a firm believer that objects have stories, and recycled art really brings those out.” Eleonora is excited to finish the sculpture and plans to make a short documentary to share the process with others. “More of these projects should happen around the world!”

recycled art 4With the successful project nearing completion, Abbie indicated the possibility of expanding the recycled art initiative in the future. “We had so many good design ideas that we envisioned the possibility of an ongoing sculpture garden next to the Fashion and InterArts buildings.” The current sculpture will be the first permanent recycled art piece on campus and will make a beautiful addition that integrates with the natural environment aesthetically, functionally, and ideologically. The frame has been completed and the project will be finished over the coming weeks.

recycled art 1