Reinventing the art of recycling

Local nonprofit SCRAP (School and Community Reuse Action Project) loves to use the “re-” prefix, and they’ve earned it.

Local nonprofit SCRAP (School and Community Reuse Action Project) loves to use the “re-” prefix, and they’ve earned it. The organization focuses on inspiring creative reuse of materials otherwise destined for the landfill. Their newest venture, the Re:Boutique, is just another great example of their efforts to re-think the destiny of our trash.

SCRAP was founded in 1998 by a group of teachers who wanted to make creative use of leftover school art supplies. A year later, the endeavor blossomed into an official non-profit with the help of a generous grant from the Department of Environmental Quality.

Eleven years after its development, SCRAP has grown into a community staple. Last year, the almost entirely volunteer-run operation collected 94 tons of donated reusable material. You’ll find these bits and pieces meticulously organized in SCRAP’s retail shop, where they resell the donations at absurdly reasonable rates. The center also offers a workshop space and hosts birthday parties, field trips, tours, and a sustainability camp for kids over the summer.

In January of 2009, SCRAP moved into a new and larger space on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in northeast Portland, offering the organization an opportunity to expand some new projects.

After winding through some of SCRAP’s bins of bottle caps and crates filled with fragments of linoleum tile, you’ll find yourself at the threshold of the Re:Vision Gallery, a space dedicated to art made with recycled material—at least 75 percent reused material, to be exact. According to center manager Alyssa Kail, this percentage tops the recycled art industry standard, which is currently 50 percent.

The gallery hosts bi-monthly shows featuring solo artists or group exhibits. The space currently features work by Portland-based artist Joe Ryckebosch, who reinvents found images by layering brightly colored patterns of vintage design tape over their dull and neglected surfaces. Most of the original images resemble the abandoned selection of wall art one might find at the Goodwill, and that’s likely where some of them were discovered. Ryckebosch’s work reminds us of the many ways we can artistically reframe what we might otherwise consider void of aesthetic satisfaction.

Tucked away into a small room off the gallery is the Re:Boutique, a consignment shop for local artists who work with recycled materials. The boutique officially opened last November and has slowly been filling up with art and craft objects—from simple pleasures like bottle cap magnets to complicated wall clocks constructed from a mosaic of corrugated cardboard.

Like the gallery, the Re:Boutique requires a 75 percent minimum of recycled material in each product. This standard really reinforces the emphasis on creatively making the most of our rubbish.

When seeking out vendors, SCRAP focuses on not only material, but also the proficiency of the craft.

“We are looking for objects that show a certain amount of skill is involved,” Kail says. “We don’t want people picking stuff up and saying, ‘Oh, I could do that.'”

While the craftsmanship is impressive, it’s also meant to inspire. This is especially easy at SCRAP, where you’re surrounded by tons of potential art projects.

In order to celebrate the new boutique and to foster some creativity, Re:Boutique is holding a grand opening and sale on Sunday, Feb. 27. SCRAP expects you’ll be inspired by all the artwork, so with every boutique purchase they will knock 25 percent off of the total of your reuse center purchase.

The festivities will also include a free craft corner, an Epic Tower Building, a turntable art station, pennant flag making and a special appearance by the Thai Mama Eggrolls food cart—likely the only component of this gathering that doesn’t utilize recycled material. ?