Dig Baton Rouge

Repurposing with a Purpose

By Rickey Miller

Art for a great cause was the buzz on Thursday, March 5, as Habitat For Humanities of Greater Baton Rouge geared up for its 6th Annual Recycled Art Auction at the Arts Council Community Gallery.

“We have built about 318 homes – that’s about 15 to 20 families that we help each year,” said Lynn T. Clark, executive director of Habitat For Humanities of Greater Baton Rouge, which has served the area for 25 years. According to Clark, events like the art auction help provide those services.

The event featured 34 art pieces by local artists using recycled materials as their media. The general public was then able to bid on the pieces, and make one artist’s trash their treasure. Among those art pieces were some fascinating and creative eye-catchers such as a purse made with wallpaper and fabric remnants, a bird house made with spelling grammar textbooks from the ‘70s and recycled door hardware, and a sculpture composed of recycled glass bottles and cement.

“We wanted artists to use recycled and usable materials for their pieces because we also have a project we call Habitat Restore, which is located off Airline Highway and Plank Road,” said Clark.

Habitat Restore sells surplus and slightly damaged building materials to the general public at a low price. Clark explained that the idea behind the recycled art-auctioning event is to allow artists to produce works in an environmental-friendly way so that they can create these “treasures.”

Along with the silent art auctioning, the Art Council Community Gallery chose the best, most creative pieces. The third place winner was Ruth Kovacs’ piece titled “Great Blue Heron.” The recycled materials included shelf brackets, can flights, screens, faucet water supply pipes, and bendable flashlights.

“The moment I set the brackets, I was inspired to create a bird,” said Kovacs. “There are herons all around us in Baton Rouge. They are graceful, elegant, and also pre-historic looking.”

In second place was “Worship the Sun,” a piece by Kim Hooper, a 34-year-old part-time glass hobbyist and full-time chemical engineer for Jacobs Engineering. Some of the materials used for the sculpture included recycled glass bottles, recycled alcohol inks, old 4x6s, and used cake pans.

And first place went to 56-year-old Mark Erwin, whose piece “River Habitat – South” captivated viewers

“When I found out I had won first place, I was…surprised and excited,” said Erwin. This was Erwin’s first time entering the Recycled Art Auction, and the win was unexpected for him.

He also said when coming up with his concept, he tried to imagine what a native’s vision of the city would have looked like years ago. He explains that he used an ancient painting technique named encaustic.

“I’ve only been using this technique for about a year and a half,” he said. His recycled materials included a plywood scrap, scrap oak boards, interior doors, rusted nails, coated roofing nails, and glass light shade.

His inspiration? “It’s hard to articulate, but I thought about what influences Baton Rouge. The river, it is what shapes the city. It shapes what type of economy we have, who lives here, and what the city can be.”

The event raised nearly $2,000 with all donations and profits going towards eradicating poverty housing. For more information on how to be a part of helping those in need please visit www.habitatbr.org or call 225-927-6651.

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