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Heroes

11 works of art that show there are no limits when it comes to reusing waste.

When it comes to art, there aren't any limits to what can be made — or what it can be made of.

Artists rely on their imagination and creativity to take their work to exciting, uncharted places. And the same thing goes for the materials they use.


In fact, many talented artists are exploring unconventional methods using an unorthodox material: trash. Not only are they creating gorgeous works of art, they're showing us that just because something ends up in the trash pile, that doesn't mean we can't get further use out of it.

RAIR, or Recycled Artist in Residency, is a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia that's reimagining how we think about waste.

All images via RAIR, used with permission.

"The work that we encourage artists to do on-site really has to do with the changing of practices," says Lucia Thomé, director of special projects at RAIR. "First of all, you see the site, you see the waste, and then it makes you think about your own practices and how wasteful you are."

Without further ado, here are 11 awesome ways they've reused trash. (Or should I say treasure?).

1. They injected new life into this local park.

It took over three years to finish, but the revitalization of Ralph Brooks Park in Philadelphia brought the local community together in a special way. And RAIR did its part by providing benches and gaming tables to keep the good times going.

2. They helped create this amazing floating installation.

RAIR provided a lot of the materials, and it was artist Mary Mattingly who constructed "WetLand," a floating installation that's part gardening space, part performance space, and part living space.

3. WUT?! A tiny replica of an actual studio?!

Multiple artists collaborated to create this one-sixth scale model of the Traction Company's huge workshop. Of course, most of the mini materials used were sourced from RAIR.

4. They make larger-than-life out-of-this-world Christmas cards.

Every year, RAIR gives back to the site that houses them by constructing these giant decorations and having what I imagine must be an incredibly fun photo shoot.

5. There's this intricate installation of a flatbed truck and its cargo.

Thomé made "Haulin' Sol" as an ode to Sol LeWitt's "Wall Drawing 1152." LeWitt was known for creating wall drawings that were meant to be reused, so what better way to honor that than with recycled materials?

6. They take interior design to another level.

In this exhibition at Fleisher-Ollman, Los-Angeles-based artists Chris Johanson and Johanna Jackson put up "House of Escaping Forms" — a showcase of beautiful room concepts using furniture found at RAIR. Just awesome.

7. They helped create a forum for people to express their awesome ideas.

Using salvaged wood sourced by RAIR, the Monument Lab was an urban research project in the heart of city hall. It was a venue for people to come together and — interestingly enough — talk about what kind of monument would be perfect for the current city of Philadelphia.

8. They provided the materials for an incredible set design.

New York artist Abigail DeVille used materials from RAIR for the set design of "She Talks to Beethoven," her original production at the Jack Theater in Brooklyn. The attention to detail is absolutely on point.

9. They did it again for an opera on an legendary artist.

Another production RAIR was involved in was "Andy: A Popera," an artistic interpretation of the life of celebrated artist Andy Warhol. In fact, RAIR sourced around 700 boxes to build this amazing out-of-the-box set.

10. They had a one-of-a-kind movie night.

To reach out to the local community, RAIR launched Live at the Dump, a series of events that also featured a movie night at Revolution Recovery. Even cooler, they showed "Wall-E" on a screen held up by two excavators. How awesome is that?

11. They staged this completely original musical where the narrative is based on found objects.

Also featured at Live at the Dump, artist Martha McDonald scoured Revolution Recovery for as many interesting objects as possible. She then tied them all together in a one-of-a-kind performance she calls "Songs of Memory and Forgetting."

Whether they're creating their own work or sourcing material for other artists, RAIR is truly challenging traditional notions of sustainability through each incredible work of art.

An organization like this proves that there aren't any limitations when it comes to thinking about reusing. As waste continues to become an increasingly pressing issue around the world, out-of-the-box solutions are more important than ever. And sure, the answer to the world's waste likely isn't with an art installation. But it's the spirit of what these works stand for that bridges the gap between art and the important issues surrounding us.

In the end, a little creative thinking can go a long way in changing our approach to waste and sustainability.


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