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Trashformations Art Competition Expands Sustainability Awareness

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

At the “Trashformations” art show, kids are encouraged to breathe new life into this idiom.

It is an annual art competition where middle school, high school and college students from Alachua County are invited to turn their recyclable waste into art.

The 17th annual show will take place Nov. 20 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Florida Museum of Natural History. It will be free and open to the public.

“The overall purpose is to plant the seed in kids that waste materials can be used in innovative ways,” said Fae Nageon de Lestang, waste alternative specialist and volunteer at Tools for Schools.

Tools for Schools is a resource center located in Gainesville that provides used classroom and art supplies to public school teachers for free. Partnered with the Alachua County Board of Commissioners, Tools for Schools receives its donations from local businesses and individuals.

Often, the supplies acquired from Tools for Schools go toward helping students create their artwork for Trashformations.

“It’s a great resource for teachers to shop through public donations,” said Patrick Irby, Alachua County waste alternatives manager.

According to Irby, the idea for Trashformations was modeled after a similar art show from Tampa. After seeing how successful the show was, Alachua County decided to implement the concept here.

In an effort to draw in more participants, the Alachua County Public Works Department will be delivering posters to schools and contacting local teachers. More recently, there has been a push to use social media to get the word out.

Last year, 190 people attended the show, according to Kaitlin Gardiner, marketing and public relations coordinator for the Florida Museum of Natural History. The year before that, 203 attended.

“Turnout is usually consistent at about 150 to 200,” she said.

Judges are comprised of a mix of teachers, art students, curators from the Harn Museum of Art, and Alachua County Public Works employees, according to a press release.

All work submitted must be composed of at least 70 percent recyclable materials.

The awards for Trashformations are presented in three categories: middle school, high school and college. There are three winners for each category. The award amounts for first, second and third place are $400, $300 and $200, respectively.

“Prize money is public purpose,” Irby said. “Approved through and given by Public Works.”

Trashformations is sponsored by the Alachua County Board of Commissioners, Office of Waste Alternatives and the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Justin is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.