Art From Scrap

California / July 10, 2012 / by The Team

Some might call it junk, but everyone at the Art From Scrap shop and studio in Santa Barbara, California, thinks of the objects in their re-use store as pieces of treasure. 

Art From Scrap started its life 21 years ago, “when the state of California was cutting budgets and so arts programs were being cut in the schools,” explains Executive Director, Cay Sanchez.

The organization has two components: it has a re-use store and is also “an environmental education and an arts program.” Art From Scrap’s goal is to “combine creativity with learning about what we can do to help the environment,” says Sanchez.

The store itself is bursting at the seams with any and all items imaginable that have been donated by local business; objects that would have otherwise gone straight to the landfill. 

The other element is the educational side. Sanchez explains that “we have a very large environmental education program. We teach kids about waste reduction and water quality and things they can do to make a difference.” They organize yearly field trips to the beaches around Santa Barbara to educate children about the connections between waste and the environment. 

“We also have an arts program where kids create art using the reuse materials,” says Sanchez. This gives the children the chance to let their imaginations run wild and “what the kids get out of it is, that whole undirected, self-directed exploration and they are so proud of themselves.”

Their art programs take place in their studio above the store. There is artwork by professional artists on the wall, which foster a truly creative environment in which the children can work. There is always something around that is ready to inspire them to create.

Jason Summers, a volunteer art teacher for Art From Scrap, explains that “it’s really exciting to be able to tell kids that the stuff that they’re making, the things that they’re using, is stuff that otherwise would go into the landfill. So they’re able to make something to delay that.”

The arts programs for the children are much less about teaching the children how to create art than they are about giving children objects they would not usually use in school or at home and letting them do whatever they want with them. 

For some adults who take their children to Art From Scrap, there is an initial apprehension. Sanchez explains that “adults sometimes are nervous. It’s like ‘oh my goodness, they’re not gonna know what to do, you have to tell them what to do, you need to give them a project.’” 

The parents’ fears are very soon abandoned, however, when the children start creating: “you put that stuff in front of them and they just focus, and you see their brains just working because they’re thinking about something.” 

As adults, we often forget that “kids are amazing, that they can take anything and make into art, and a lot of it for them is process as much as product,” says Sanchez. 

Summers emphasizes that the advantages of using the so-called junk is that “these are open-ended materials that children are encouraged to explore freely and there’s a sense of empowerment to see all this material and they’re allowed to just simply go in and create something that’s purely their own.”

In a world full of toys that are manufactured each with an exact purpose, Art From Scrap wants to encourage the imagination that is so powerful in children. 

As Summers says, when “you ask why is junk so inviting, I can’t help but think about my own childhood, or ask anybody else about their own childhood, when they have the best time: playing with some manufactured toy or was it playing with a box and some sticks and some scrap machinery.”

Art From Scrap gives both parents and children the excuse they need not to stay inside and play video games, “and to have that experience for a family to come together and the parents to be able to get involved with their own artwork and with their children, I think it just really beneficial for the family.”

They encourage children to use their imaginations and in doing so, give the parents new and exciting pieces of artwork to hang on the walls and fridge. It is also about educating children so they can learn that they do have creativity as well as an impact on the world in which they live. They can create art and they can also learn to help the environment as they do so.

What Sanchez loves most about her work at Art From Scrap “is really the kids. It’s all about the kids because you need to start when they’re young and instill some values in them. They’re our future, and they’re just so inspiring.”

To learn more about Art From Scrap, visit their website and Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.