TNCS “Pops” the Trash!

“I want to do at least one project a year in which students work with the community outside the school,” said The New Century School art teacher Jenny Miller. “Doing community art is good for them.” Working for and with the larger Baltimore community is also an important TNCS value.

So, in continuing his 2013 “Hack the Trash” campaign, when environmental advocate and photographer Brian Schneider invited six area schools to contribute new trash drums as part of a larger initiative to beautify Baltimore’s parks (called “Hack the Parks”), TNCS was in! Mr. Schneider especially hoped for TNCS’s participation and was thrilled when Ms. Miller requested six cans for her upper elementary class to paint. Said Mr. Schneider, “I’m excited to see what TNCS produced and to have them debut in the park along with the other schools participating: Patterson Park Charter, Highlandtown Elementary/Middle, Hampstead Hill Academy, The John Rogers School, and Christo Rey Jesuit.”

Keith Haring

Keith Haring was an American artist and social activist whose “imagery has become a widely recognized visual language of the 20th century.”

The elementary students studied Warhol's iconic style, recreated here by Mrs. Raccuglia!

The elementary students studied Warhol’s iconic style, recreated here by Mrs. Raccuglia!

Pop the Trash in the Can

Instead of using stencils as has been done in Patterson Park’s existing “hacked” cans, Ms. Miller seized the opportunity to hone her students’ brush skills while simultaneously introducing them to Pop Art. As such, “Pop the Trash in the Can” was born, a project spanning the last 8 weeks of the 2013–2014 academic year. Students created their own designs based on the Pop Art artists they studied—Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Yayoi Kusama, and Takashi Murakami. These artists use imagery from popular culture, simple shapes, cartoon-like images, bright colors, and lots of patterns to create their own special brand of fine art.

Collaborative Art

Another aspect of this fun, educational, multidimensional art project is that students were asked to collaborate on the cans. Working in pairs or trios, they brainstormed their ideas, drew up their designs, and then transferred them onto transparencies, which were projected onto the trash drums on a larger scale for the students to trace and fill in. Incidentally, this is not only how some of the pop artists they studied also work, but also a process familiar to them from their mural creation with the Baltimore Love Project artists.

“It’s been fun just painting the cans,” said Ms. Miller. “They’ve been really into it, making little impromptu adjustments as they go along and see what works and what doesn’t.” Once the basic design had been painted onto the cans, Ms. Miller next had the students add the bold black outlines and clean lines so characteristic of pop art. “Outlining something can make it look better and hide mistakes!” It will also help the cans be seen from a distant across the park. “They really want people to throw their trash in these cans,” said Ms. Miller. “They’re proud of them and really understand the environmental benefit.”

This elementary student works hard at getting his design just right

This elementary student works hard at getting his design just right

TNCS elementary students thoroughly enjoyed “Pop the Trash in the Can.” “They loved working ‘big,’ they loved working for the public and knowing that lots of people would see their work, and they actually liked working together on this,” said Ms. Miller. They worked through disagreements about design, palette, and approach as they arose and figured out how to resolve their conflicts as a team. It was the ideal TNCS assignment, bringing together creativity, investigation, and problem-solving. “They were true collaborators,” said Ms. Miller. “They treated each other’s work with respect and always asked before painting someone else’s side.”

Don’t Throw It All Away!

As the project drew to an end, catastrophe nearly thwarted the students’ efforts when they discovered that their initial  painting did not produce the desired results on the cans. “The paint was thin and transparent and not nearly as bright as they had been anticipating. “Some were very unhappy and ready to abandon their efforts,” said Ms. Miller, “but  they were encouraged to rework some of the areas, and this perseverance has yielded results that they are very proud of. It was a great learning experience.”

We have to agree, Ms. Miller! Don’t forget to look for these cans any day now in Patterson Park after Mr. Schneider clear-coats and unveils them—finding all six would make a great scavenger hunt!

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?