arts beat Merideth Young

We’ve all been there, most of us in our youth—pulling pots and pans out of mom’s cabinets to make drum sets, using mud and fresh berry juice to make paintings, woefully wailing as we pull something discarded out of the trashcan because it can still be refashioned into something beautiful. “Why would you throw this old blanket away?! It’s the perfect cape for Princess Madonna Abdul of Eightieslandistan!”

Okay, maybe that last one applied more to me than anyone else, but a child’s mind just seems to have the necessary properties to turn anything into a work of art. This month’s entry in ArtsBeat is dedicated to you, kids of all ages, who can still find beauty in those things the rest of us would sooner throw out.

arts beat Brooklyn

From a landfill in Paraguay to a Broadway stage in New York City to a studio right here in West Virginia, upcycled and recycled art is nothing new. In Cateura, Paraguay, artisans fashion violins and cellos from oil drums and other items culled from the local trash heap to put musical instruments in the hands of the community’s youth. (Be sure to check out the documentary Landfill Harmonic if you haven’t already!)

arts beat orchestra_students

Designer Tobin Ost incorporated discarded chip bags, caution tape, trash bags, and other unexpected materials into his costumes for the 2004 Broadway show Brooklyn: The Musical. Here at home, Merideth Young’s upcycled aluminum can jewelry continues to make a splash, with representation at retail establishments in at least 31 states and online at Whether wearable or playable, treasures made of trash have captured the world’s attention—and not just for the sake of entertainment.

arts beat TP Roll Art

Aside from serving as a great way to salvage at least some of the roughly 4.5 pounds of waste each of us averages per day, works of art like these serve as a powerful catalyst for change. Upcycled and repurposed arts gets people thinking—about the nature of beauty, about our impact on the world, and about how, with justa little bit more effort, we can work towards making anything that might seem unsightly or worthless into something beautiful and useful. For me, it’s toilet paper rolls. You get enough of those things saved up, and you can make some pretty fantastic, cheap, and chic wall art. Trust me. Just look at this kitchen art right here to your left.

This month, ArtsBeat ends with a challenge to you, dear reader: Find that one thing that always seems to make its way into your trash can and repurpose, upcycle,or recycle it. Tap into your inner child. Can it be something beautiful? Something useful? Both? Share pictures of your upcycled and recycled art with LBSPY on Facebook or Instagram with #LBSPYTrashArt. We look forward to seeing what you make!

1. Featured Photo is of a Tin Can Necklace. Photo by Ricky Lee. 2. Caution Tape and Trash Bag Dress. Photo by Joan Marcus. 3. Orchestra Kids. Photo Courtesy Landfill Harmonic. 4. TP Art Roll made from recycled toilet paper rolls. Photo by Ryan Ferrebee.

– Ryan Ferrebee, LBSPY #51. (March 10-April 7, 2014). Edited by Micah Labishak.


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