California Arts Council

State of California

The Earth and Arts: Things of Beauty
California students create artwork for Earth Day from refuse, recycled materials

Published: 04-29-2010

Dozens came out to the south steps of the state Capitol for Earth Day 2010 on April 22, from politicians to municipal recyclers to a Sacramento Boy Scout troop. But the element that stood out the most? The artwork.

Various state agencies and organizations sponsored an official Earth Day event to launch California's statewide effort for the fourth annual Great American Cleanup campaign, headed up by Keep California Beautiful. The goals of the program are to collect litter, save taxpayer dollars, recycle more trash, and raise awareness about various groups' efforts to make California the cleanest state in the nation -- and the most artistic.

Berklee Comstock, a 17-year old high school senior from Bakersfield who will be attending the Otis College of Design next year, proudly stood by his recycled-material sculptures and artwork. He was one of dozens of Bakersfield-area arts students who participated in a program coordinated by a handful of refuse and recycling organizations from Kern County. 

Ray Scott, an administrative services manager from Price Environmental Services, said that his company worked with Kern County Waste Management, Keep Bakersfield Beautiful, Kern Refuse Haulers, and the Arts Council of Kern for a "recycling arts expo." Fifty students from 14 high schools participated, and $1250 was raised for 20 scholarships from the project. Scott noted that the efforts of the Arts Council of Kern -- a State-Local Partner with the California Arts Council -- were key to the success of the recycling arts expo.

The artwork remained on display after the press conference, and dozens of onlookers came to view the pieces. SEE PHOTOS. One of Berklee's sculptures, titlted "Decision Making," was clearly visible from a distance, appearing like a barren tree from a Dr. Seuss book or Tim Burton movie. 

Earth Day"Decision Making" was constructed of cardboard on the inside and then rolled newspapers and copper wire. The newspapers used are from his school's social-studies classes; once students are done reading them, the papers are brought to the art department for use in paper mache and other visual arts projects. There is no glue used in the structure at all, explained Berklee, keeping with the "green" theme behind the intent of the piece -- the conscious decision to use earth-friendly products rather than potentially toxic ones. The branches are metaphors for the decisions that people make on a daily basis and that define a person, and subtly hidden in some of the branches are photos of politicians and others whose decisions affect millions of people.

Berklee and his fellow high-school artists weren't the only ones displaying artwork that day. Boy Scout troop 635 of Citrus Heights, a suburb of Sacramento, contributed to Earth Day 2010 by spending the previous Saturday cleaning up Arcade Creek, a local tributary that winds through neighborhoods northeast of the state capital. The troop composed a sculpture of their own from the refuse items they collected during "Creek Week," a week-long event dedicated to cleaning up area waterways. They proudly displayed their somewhat impromptu artwork with their fellow green students as their contribution to cleaning up their local environs.

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Officials from Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, CalRecycle (a new state agency), Keep California Beautiful, the American Chemistry Council, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the Sacramento County Office of Education were also involved in the Great American Cleanup event. Additional information about this program can be found on the Great American Cleanup and Keep California Beautiful websites.

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