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Friday, September 22, 2023
Sept. 22, 2023

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Recycling rocks at annual Recycled Arts Festival in Vancouver

By , Columbian staff writer
8 Photos
The Columbian files The 2017 Recycled Arts Festival included Vancouver’s first Procession of the Species, an idea borrowed from Olympia. Don Holder of Olympia was in town with his jellyfish costume, which won Best Costume in the adult division. Who will win this year?
The Columbian files The 2017 Recycled Arts Festival included Vancouver’s first Procession of the Species, an idea borrowed from Olympia. Don Holder of Olympia was in town with his jellyfish costume, which won Best Costume in the adult division. Who will win this year? Photo Gallery

Some humble Clark County creative people who might not consider themselves actual artists have been recycling nature’s leftovers into art for years. Transforming unremarkable stones into whimsical works of art, and then hiding them in the landscape for strangers to find — under a bench, beside a flower, in the hand of the Captain George Vancouver statue near City Hall — has grown into a pastime for these followers of that credo about “committing random acts of kindness and senseless beauty.” They’ve even created a semi-organized online group that’s called, of course, Vancouver Rocks!

They should feel right at home at the 13th annual Recycled Arts Festival in Esther Short Park, set for June 23 to 24, where more than 130 folks who definitely consider themselves artists will be showing off an astonishing assortment of cleverly recycled creations.

Broken glass becomes glittering, colorful mosaics. Scrap metal and leftover gears and pulleys find new uses as steam-punky furniture, lamps, clocks. Vintage fabrics and fashions become … stylish new fabrics and fashions. Cast-off wood fragments turn into hand-lettered signs and other wall hangings. Watch parts and medallions transform into unique jewelry.

It’s all made of at least 75 percent materials that were snatched from the waste stream and transformed from used-up into useful, or simply beautiful.

“The Recycled Arts Festival celebrates creativity while promoting environmental sustainability,” said event founder Sally Fisher of Clark County Public Health. “I’m always amazed at the novel ways these artists turn trash into art.”

If You Go

• What: 13th annual Recycled Arts Festival.

• When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 23, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 24.

• Where: Esther Short Park, corner of Sixth and Columbia streets, Vancouver.

• Admission: Free

• On the web: recycledartsfestival.com

So are festival attendees, who have made this event one of the most popular in Esther Short Park’s busy summer event schedule since it launched in 2006.

This year, organizers took a cue from those Vancouver Rocks! people, and stowed around town some rocks that have been decorated with invitations to attend the Recycled Arts Festival. Find one of these rocks and bring it to the information tent to receive a reusable festival water bottle. (You won’t have to surrender your find, though. In keeping with Vancouver Rocks! practices, that free, handmade gift is yours to keep.)

Reusable vessels are important to Public Health, which is trying to cut down on pollution (not to mention plastic particles in our bodies, a byproduct of disposable bottles). Bring your own mug or water bottle to that info tent to be entered in a special prize drawing.

(Reusable bottles are also a good idea because it’s summer. Last year’s attendees can’t forget the brutal heat wave that cooked the whole occasion to a crisp. This year’s weather is likely to be less blistering, but still sunny and warm. A reusable bottle will come in handy.)

Keep it sharp

The family-friendly festival also will include live music on the big stage while magicians and jugglers stroll the park; a children’s craft tent stocked with recycled materials; a sculpture garden with large artworks on display and a people’s choice contest; a Tossed-and-Found display of perfectly good stuff that’s been saved from the landfill; demonstrations by high school robotics teams; a visit from The Falconer, who’ll host live birds of prey and talk about the effects of toxic garden chemicals and general pollution on wildlife; and a tiny house, demonstrating how it’s possible to live in an 8-by-20-foot space.

New to this year’s festival is the Repair Cafe, which will offer free garden-tool sharpening; the limit is two tools per gardener.

You could even “upcycle” a cat, or microchip a cat or dog. Furry Friends, a no-kill cat rescue and adoption group, will be on hand with adoptable cats, and a licensed volunteer tech will be implanting ID microchips in pets for $20 apiece.

On parade

Sunday morning will see the return of the Procession of Species, a community parade starring folks who have made costumes and masks representing animals, elements and the natural world. Free costume workshops have been held over the past several weekends, but there are still opportunities to attend a workshop: 

10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 22 at the Vancouver Community Library, Skamania Room, 901 C St.

All day June 23 at the Recycled Arts Festival’s Children’s Craft Tent in Esther Short Park.

Registration for the Procession of Species opens at 10:30 a.m. June 24, and the parade, led by Brazillian drum group MARACATUpdx, begins at 11 a.m. There’s no cost to march.

Free parking is available in the county garage at 14th and Franklin streets, and a free shuttle will run between the nearby gazebo and Esther Short Park. That’s handy if you’re carrying a purchase.