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Don't Throw That Art Stuff Away!

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

That archaic adage has possibly never been more pertinent than in describing a new repository at Smith of discarded art supplies and materials, free for the taking.

In this case, the adage might be amended to “one person’s trash is another’s art.”

TRACES -- which stands for The Recycling and Arts Center for Education and Sustainability -- is a student-operated program that collects donated cast-off materials and invites people in the Smith community to use what they can in the pursuit of art and creativity.

Painting canvas, easel paper, cardboard in various shapes and sizes, wood, wire, office supplies, yarn, sheet metal, tile, foam, corkboards and adhesive-backed color paper are a few of the materials that occupy the TRACES floor space, awaiting new use by a creative second owner.

Located at Fort Hill, 28 Lyman Road, near the Smith Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE), TRACES is open to anyone in the college community Mondays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays 1 to 5 p.m., and Wednesdays and Fridays 7:45 to 8:30 a.m. (Open hours will be extended as student volunteers become available.)

TRACES also maintains a Web site showing some of its sample materials. “The idea is that people (especially those in the art, theater, engineering, and education departments) can browse the store’s materials online and then come in and pick up free materials, such as canvas, which would be very costly otherwise,” explains Rachel Gelfand ’07, who helps coordinate the facility through a work-study position.

The idea for TRACES was sparked when Martha Lees, director of the CECE, and Heidi Keirstead ’07 traveled last year to Reggio Emilia, Italy, to see the city’s famous childhood centers that advocate, among their broad curricula, integration with the environment and ample space for artwork and supplies. Last summer, Keirstead teamed with Gwen Reichert ’07, both working on Praxis internships, and began collecting materials, cataloguing them and advertising their availability.

In the Reggio Emilia tradition, at least part of the TRACES concept is environmentally inspired: while the resource provides free materials for creative people’s use, it also reduces waste in landfills.

“I’d like it to become a place for people to bring what they don’t need and get what they do,” says Kendra Colburn AC, who took over the TRACES operation this fall with Gelfand, “so there is less waste and infinitely more creativity, connection between people and responsibility for our impact on natural resources.”

So far, the art materials repository has been well used by a range of campus groups, reports Gelfand, including Fort Hill and Smith Campus School teachers and teaching fellows, students who volunteer at the Gerena Community School in Springfield, students who volunteer at a local shelter, and several Smith staff members who have found art supplies for their children.

Students at the CECE made artistic “robots” with TRACES materials, Gelfand said, and materials there contributed to creative works displayed during Spontaneous Art Night, a student exhibition that ran for two weeks in the Campus Center’s Nolen Art Lounge in October.

Though TRACES mostly takes in art materials, Gelfand points out that the items there can be used for other purposes as well. Students in an engineering class have used the items for their science projects on sound and visual exploration. “Materials could also be used in the film and theater departments (set design), in knitting and sewing, and in home-office improvements,” says Gelfand, not to mention crafts and party decorations, and in teaching the principles of re-use and sustainability.

It doesn’t matter to Gelfand or others at TRACES how their materials are used -- only that they are used.

To volunteer, or to inquire about materials, contact TRACES at ext. 3290.

12/15/06   By Eric Sean Weld
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