Kids create art from other people's trash

Organization salvages unwanted material from local businesses for children's art projects
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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A 6-year-old boy conscientiously glued scraps of other people’s trash together to make his own treasure: a toy train. After finishing his first project, Connor Moore later crafted a telescope at the reCREATE Eco-Art Center in downtown Roseville. Nearby, Moore’s grandma and grandpa seemed to have as much fun — if not more — as their grandson, as they sifted through containers of art supplies. “You have an enthusiastic grandma in here,” said Moore’s grandmother, Linda Bailey. ReCREATE started in 2008 as a non-profit organization devoted to salvaging unwanted materials from local businesses and repurposing the items into supplies for children’s art projects. This effort keeps clean, usable stuff out of landfills and teaches kids about environmental stewardship. Last fall, the organization opened a shop on Vernon Street in downtown Roseville. Now, ReCREATE is gearing up for a week of Earth Day activities. “What I love about this (center) is kids can be creative,” Bailey said. “It’s not so structured, and it’s recycling.” The U.S. population produces about 250 million tons of trash annually, and 33.2 percent of this is recycled or composted. But about 55 percent of this waste ends up buried in landfills, which emit methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. ReCREATE expects to prevent about 12 tons of waste from entering landfills this year alone. Roseville mom Donna Sangwin founded the organization two years ago after her young son, Zach, asked his mom to save an item she had tossed into the garbage so he could use it for an art project. Inspired, she soon quit her job at Capital Public Radio and used her background in national advertising sales to partner with local businesses eager to unload unwanted — but usable — materials. At first, Sangwin ran the organization out of a truck and storage unit. She still has the truck, which acts as a mobile craft store at schools and community events. Kids grab a basket, climb into the truck and pick out items to later use for art projects. ReCREATE visits between five and seven schools a month. During the workshops, students create art as the organization’s teaching assistant educates the children about natural resources, conservation and the importance of reducing our consumption. A Roseville school pays about $2 per student for a visit from reCREATE’s truck and teaching assistant, Sangwin said. The organization served 2,500 students in its first year and expects to serve 4,000 this year. Next year, Sangwin hopes to reach 7,000 kids. Last October, Sangwin opened the art center with the help of a two-year $49,998 grant from the California Integrated Waste Management Board’s Reuse Assistance Grant Program. “It took a little time to get in the groove,” Sangwin said. “(But) the store is holding its own already.” The organization partners with 25 businesses, including architecture firms, Whole Foods, Beverly’s Fabrics and Crafts, Le Petit Chateau, Palmer Signs, Hewlett-Packard, the Sacramento Area Tennis Association and several retail stores to supply the center with materials. “That’s been a great win-win for us,” Sangwin said. The store stocks gift bags, yarn, wood pieces, silk flowers, tile, ribbon, laminate and leather samples, glass baby food containers, upholstery fabric books, carpet samples, stickers, butcher paper, cigar boxes, hair clips and much more. The center has drop-in crafting tables, and hosts scheduled classes for children and adults, birthday parties, five-day camps and other events, said store clerk Meredith Thompson. She has worked at the center since December of 2009. “Every day is different,” Thompson said. “At least one kid comes in and makes something I’ve never seen before. At some point, we loose our creativity. Part of our mission is to get kids to hold on to that as long as they can and keep expressing it.” As Moore worked on his train, his grandparents continued to browse through the merchandise. “If you let a kid go, they can be very creative,” Bailey said. “Sometimes we stifle them and say, ‘This is what you’re making.’ But if you give them freedom, you never know what you’re going to get.” Sena Christian can be reached at ---------- reCREATE will host an art station at the Celebrate the Earth festival from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 17, at Mahany Park, 1501 Pleasant Grove Blvd. The reCREATE Eco-Art Center will offer a free drop-in crafting day on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22. The store is located at 414 Vernon St. in downtown Roseville. For more information, call (916) 749-3717 or visit