Recycle, Reuse, Roam at arts fair

Sunny weather helps draw thousands to downtown annual festival

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Feed sacks reimagined as tote bags, credit cards carved into guitar picks and colorful zipper pulls used on key rings.

Those were just a few of the items for sale Saturday at the Recycled Arts Festival at Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver.

The event, an exercise in rethinking trash, recycles itself today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In its sixth year, the free festival benefitted from nice weather, as some people who came to go to the Vancouver Farmers Market or take their kids to the park’s playground ended up taking in the festival. But the festival has also steadily drawn larger crowds and attracted more artists who want to set up a tent to showcase their garden art, wind chimes, bird feeders and other creations made from reclaimed materials.

The festival is sponsored by the Clark County Department of Environmental Services in partnership with Columbia Resource Co. and Waste Connections Inc.

The year, the Portland Rose Festival wanted to include it as an event, so it benefited from Rose Festival promotions, said organizer Sally Fisher, a waste-reduction specialist for the county.

Fisher was inspired to start the festival after seeing the Cracked Pots Garden Art Show in Portland, which debuted in 1998.

“I just thought it was really cool,” she said, and was determined to start something like it north of the Columbia River.

“We just like to remind people that there are better uses for things than just throwing them away.”

The first year, 30 artists signed up.

This year, Fisher signed up 107 artists and has 40 artists on a waiting list. She gives priority to local artists.

Since there’s no admission, it’s difficult to track how many people attend but Fisher has three people who estimate crowd size and she takes the lowest estimate.

The first year, approximately 700 people attended; last year the number had increased to 15,000.

The event has a popular Tossed and Found display featuring items rescued from garbage transfer stations and then cleaned.

Rescued items included chairs, tables, cookbooks, hula hoops, clothes, baskets and artwork sure to suit someone’s tastes.

(Paintings of Abraham Lincoln? Anyone?)

The items will be on sale as of Monday afternoon or Tuesday at Paws-N-Claws Thrift Store, 3308 N.E. 52nd St., said Cheryl Smith of the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, which uses proceeds from Paws-N-Claws.

There’s also music and children’s activities.

Today, the Mudeye Puppets show will be at 11:30 a.m., followed by a puppet-making workshop for kids.

Kids might also enjoy getting a passport and collecting stamps from booths, then spinning a prize wheel once they’ve filled out the passport.

The passport encourages people to not skip over the educational booths, where they can learn about composting or recycling or gardening.

Artist Stephanie Dukart of Rock Candy Art was selling jewelry and key chains while sharing a booth with her daughter Kat Kerr, 17.

Kerr, who will be a senior at Columbia River High School, was selling guitar picks made from old credit cards and gift cards.

She said she got the idea after a friend kept using her identification card to play his guitar.

The cards were the right weight for strumming, she realized, and the recognizable logos make for eye-catching designs.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Kerr said.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.