Hack the Trash: Community Art Project

Hack the trashOn Sunday, August 11th, an exciting new public art project began in Patterson Park of particular interest to The New Century School community. Merging social activism and environmental awareness with art, “Hack the Trash” is part of a city-wide venture to improve our parks. Hack the Trash, a trash drum painting project, targets three main goals simultaneously: 1) adding more trash cans in public areas to deter littering, 2) beautifying the drums to promote increased use, and 3) raising awareness about a social issue—the art delivers a message on a chosen theme. The first session centered on Chesapeake Bay consciousness; the next, to be held Sunday, August 18th, also in Patterson Park, will focus on the park itself.

Led by artist Ben Peterson, Session 1 began with an explanation of “the importance of the Harris Creek Watershed and its connection to Patterson Park,” said the project’s main organizer, photographer Brian Schneider. Harris Creek runs below Canton, with its watershed covering a geographic area from Clifton Park down to the harbor at Harris Creek (north/south boundary) and from Johns Hopkins Hospital to Patterson Park (west/east boundary). In urban watersheds, stormwater management becomes highly important insofar as stormwater runoff transports bacteria, nutrients, sediments, toxins, and trash through storm drains into tributaries and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay. So, about 15 people gathered to paint the eight cans raising public awareness about the watershed (photos courtesy of Brian Schneider Photography shown below).

Mr. Schneider says that Hack the Trash is actually part of a bigger venture called “Hack the Parks,” a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology (MOIT) and Baltimore’s Department of Recreation and Parks, which challenged Baltimoreans to improve our urban green spaces. A series of grants was awarded in June to the cream of the project proposals. Hack the Trash was one of six pilot projects receiving this seed money in addition to park space and Rec and Parks resources. Though MOIT underwrites the project, technology is not necessarily a prerequisite for getting funded. The Hack the Park website states: “By hacking, we mean [that] citizens develop their own applications (whether they be technology-based or not) which create simple, tangible benefits for the community.” Now the name “Hack the Trash” begins to make a lot of sense—but with “paint application” rather than something we can run on our smartphones!

Altogether, Hack the Trash plans to hold 5–10 sessions, depending on the number of artists and participants, to paint a total of 30 cans purchased with their $1,200 grant. Mr. Schneider told the Baltimore Guide that he and his neighbors “applied for the grant because they got sick of seeing trash blowing all over Patterson Park.” Comparing Baltimore to larger cities that have less litter, they felt that part of the problem was simply not enough trash receptacles, and Hack the Trash was born. The project will also make sure that the receptacles are immediately visible but in an aesthetically pleasing way, rather than blending in with the background and getting missed, as sometimes might be the case.

So Patterson Park lovers, be sure to look for the new cans during your next visit—as well as consider joining Leanna Wetmore from Banner Neighborhoods at the Friends of Patterson Park House for Session 2 on August 18th at 4 p.m.  All ages can participate, and the kids would get a chance to have some fun, beautify their surroundings, and learn, all at the same time! Isn’t “technology” wonderful?

One thought on “Hack the Trash: Community Art Project

  1. I liked this article. The pictures of the painted trash cans are great. Can’t wait to see in person.

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