Recycled Arts Festival celebrates works of art

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



Recycled Arts Festival

What: 135 artists and representatives from various recycling groups will sell wares and share information at the event, hosted by the Clark County Department of Environmental Services. The festival is part of the agency's educational outreach to encourage waste reduction, reuse, recycling and a cleaner environment in Clark County.

Where: Esther Short Park, 301 West Eighth St.

When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 23 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 24.

Cost: Free.


You never know what you might come across while strolling around Esther Short Park during the Recycled Arts Festival.

A giant fork made of hundreds of recycled forks? Yup, that's happened.

A life-sized sculpture of a woman made out of coat hangers, a bird cage and scrap wire? Keep a lookout at this year's sculpture garden.

A guitar made out of a cigar box, old door hinges and bits of a beat-up coffee table? Look no further than Alan Matta's booth.

"There are so many things down there that are unique and different," said Matta, who's sold his unusual instruments at the festival for the past three years. "You walk around, slap your forehead and say, 'Why didn't I think of that?'"

Matta is one of 135 artists who will present their work at the festival, now in its seventh year.

The event has become so popular that there's even a waiting list with about 40 more artists who want to have booths, said Sally Fisher, a waste reduction specialist for Clark County and one of the festival's founders.

"I never dreamed it would get this big," Fisher said. "It started real small. We had about 600 people come the first year. Last year, we had 20,000 people."

The goal of the event, hosted by the Clark County Department of Environmental Services, is to encourage and educate the public about waste reduction, reuse and recycling.

Last year, it became the only Rose Festival-sanctioned event in Washington, which caused a large attendance spike, Fisher said.

This year it could grow even bigger, she said.

Along with the booths, children's activities, live music and educational aspects, visitors can also check out the brand new sculpture garden in Propstra Square, the brick section of the park.

"We've got a fire breathing dragon, a horse that turns into a mermaid -- it really is fine art," Fisher said.

Also in the sculpture garden will be Mike Meyer's sculpture of a woman made from coat hangers.

"There's a bird cage in the chest, with a couple wire creatures, one reaching for a key it's trying to get from her hand," Meyer said. "I made it as part of a challenge at another show I usually do."

Meyer, who makes all sorts of items -- including bird houses, furniture and sculpture --from scrap materials, added that while it was an interesting learning experience to work with wire hangers, it's probably not something he'd do again.

"I learned to hate coat hangers," he said with a laugh. "They are so hard to work with. But I love that challenge."

Meyer has sold his art at every festival except the second one, he said.

"The first year I went and it wasn't so great, so we didn't go the second year," Meyer said. "But then we heard how much better it had gotten in the second year, and we've been there ever since. It's great."

Artists pay $25 for booths at the show, which is much cheaper than other shows in the region. Still, most don't make a lot of money -- and that's not really the point, Meyer said.

"I'm not really in it for that," he said. "I enjoy what I make and the smiles on people's faces seeing what you can do with the things that they usually throw away. There are so many creative people out there, and the things they do with trash are just amazing."

Meyer and Matta both said the money they make from the festival generally goes to buy more equipment or materials that can't be acquired from recycling.

"I worked construction for 35 years, and there's so much waste at construction sites, that I formed some connections there and I'm able to get a lot of materials from them," Meyer said. "But the festival, it's really sort of a bonus if I sell things. It's a wonderful show and I love being there."

Matta often visits cigar stores for boxes for his instruments and salvage yards to find other metal parts, he said.

"I will buy wood occasionally, but most of the stuff I get I either find or people donate," Matta said. "At the last Vancouver Farmers Market, I had about three different people bring me boxes. That was great."

The Department of Environmental Services spends about $25,000 each year on the festival, but about half of that is covered by Columbia Credit Union, other sponsors and booth fees.

"So really it's about $12,000 to the county, and that's about typical for an educational outreach effort of this size," Fisher said.

And since it's free for the public to attend, there's really no excuse not to check it out, Matta said.

"Everybody should go if they have a chance," Matta said. "It's got something for everybody. It's a neat festival and it's really fun."