Virtually Burbank Symposium Talks About Turning Trash Into Treasure

Image Courtesy Burbank Cultural Arts Commission.

The Burbank Cultural Arts Commission and the Burbank Recycle Center present an Earth Day-inspired Virtually Burbank symposium, Turning Trash Into Treasure on Thursday evening, April 22, on the BurbankArts Facebook LIVE page.

“This event is intended to inspire participants to think about alternative possibilities for the things that we often casually toss into our trash bins,” said host and Cultural Arts Commissioner Suzanne Weerts.

“Burbank is a unique city in that we have our own landfill, so everything you throw out stays right here in our city. Wouldn’t it be amazing if more of that stuff found another home and another purpose? Wouldn’t it be amazing if some of those things that have no value to you, could become art in the hands of someone else?”

Burbank Recycling Specialist Amy Hammes will share her perspectives as well.

“I’m so excited to join this panel that highlights Burbank’s artist community incorporating reuse in their projects,” commented Hammes. “I am fully convinced that creative reuse has no downside. It saves material from landfill, preserves resources, aids creativity, saves money and changes the culture away from cavalierly wasting.”

Local artists Stefanie Girard, Monica Caram and London and Wendy Ruff will share some of their creative ideas repurposing discards and reusable items into art.

The Virtually Burbank program will also feature a virtual tour of EcoSet, “an environmental production resource and materials oasis for local artists,” explained Weerts. “With all the challenges in our world, there is something each one of us can do to avoid the landfill, ‘MacGyver’ creative obstacles into solutions, empower our children and value experiences over stuff!”

Located in Atwater Village, EcoSet houses reusable creative materials from film, television and event productions in 30,000 square feet. Artists and creatives can access these items for free.

“Each trip there is an adventure into the unknown,” said Girard, a regular visitor to EcoSet and Turning Trash Into Treasure panelist. “You never know what you will find. There are two types of things there: the things you have on your ‘always looking for list’ and the things you didn’t know you wanted like the big box of paint swatch books that has become a favorite of mine to collage with. SCORE!”

(form left to right) Ian Imrich, Bernie with his Pocket Monoliths, Tim Miller, Melinda Henderson Smilgys, Andrea Torres and Sarah Quinn enjoy Stefanie Girard’s “Art Candy Machine.” (Image Courtesy Stefanie Girard)

“I love working with recycled materials as it takes the pressure off of making mistakes. So much of art making is trying new things and taking chances,” Girard added. “With recycled materials, if you mess up you didn’t waste money and resources.”

Girard’s interactive, community-focused art walks the walk. Art Candy Machine combines the accessibility of a walk up vending machine with inexpensive pieces of miniature artworks for sale. The vending machine is located in her driveway at Oak and Fairview and each of the more than 100 art minis are available for $5, with all proceeds going to the artists.

The fence surrounding her yard is adorned with art shared by creative neighbors. Lining the bottom of the fence are painted rocks for giving and sharing as part of her Little Free Rock Wall.

For more information on Girard’s Art Candy Machine, visit her blog.

Mother and daughter Wendy and London Ruff have created a zoo and aquarium filled with animals and creatures made out of recycled materials. Located at Parkside and Orchard, the menagerie has drawn a multitude of fans throughout the ongoing pandemic.

London was in the middle of a Smithsonian fellowship when the pandemic hit. She left Washington D.C. and returned home to Burbank.

“The Smithsonian Zoo was free to the public and I would go there every weekend just to sit and watch the animals,” explained Ruff. “When I came home, it was weird not to be able to go to the zoo and we thought about the younger kids who probably missed it too. So my mom and I decided to bring the zoo to the neighborhood kids so they’d still have somewhere fun to go while staying safe.”

Scenes from the Parkside Zoo and Aquarium. (Photo Courtesy Wendy and London Ruff)

The Ruffs use recycled boxes and bottles to make their colorful creatures.

“The boxes we can’t use to make animals we turn into cardboard cutouts and display those for neighborhood kids to take, decorate and return,” London also said. “Our zoo and aquarium are filled with art by local families alongside our own creations.”

Multi-media artist Monica Caram, who holds a degree in ceramics, joins the Ruffs and Girard for the symposium. She teaches children’s art classes for Burbank Parks and Recreation since 2017. One of her classes, “Recycling to Build Robots” is for children ages 3 1/2 to 6 and is an early introduction to how something that would be thrown away can become something else.

“My classes are designed to spark creativity and eco-consciousness in children from a very young age,” Caram said.

Caram is part of Molcajete Dominguero, one of the largest Latino art groups in the country, and sells her recycled bottle creations at art fairs across Southern California as well as on her website.

“Whether I’m working with children or sharing my art with adults, I’m always trying to teach my community that cheap isn’t lasting and we all need to work together to create a cleaner environment,” she also said.

Monica Caram’s Moonstone Craft recycled bottle spoon rests. (Photo Courtesy Monica Caram)

The Virtually Burbank: Alone Together series showcases monthly creative topics online as a way to support local artists during the pandemic.

“We have much gratitude as we have watched our community reach out and bring creatives together in celebration,” commented Burbank Cultural Arts Commission Chair Leah Harrison.

“The April 22 event, Turning Trash Into Treasure, is another amazing collaboration between the city, the Recycle Center and the Cultural Arts Commission honoring Earth day by spotlighting the great work our city has done in its efforts for sustainability along with artists who are generously sharing their environmentally conscious creativity.”

Turning Trash Into Treasure streams free online beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 22, on the Burbank Cultural Arts Commission Facebook LIVE page.