Recycled Artwork and the Heidelberg Project

This year, first grade students became experts and advocates with an expedition focused on reusing, reducing, and recycling. It was the perfect opportunity to explore the concept of recycling materials for the creation of artwork: taking “garbage” and giving it new life! A great example of creating with recycled materials can be found in our own city at the Heidelberg Project. The Heidelberg Project is a community organization designed to improve lives through art. The majority of the materials utilized are found objects and recycled materials from the streets of Detroit. The stated mission of the organization is to “inspire people to appreciate and use artistic expression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of their greater community.”

Beyond the transformative potential of “trash,” an important lesson that can be learned from the Heidelberg Project is collaboration. Working with others is an important skill, and there is no limit to the potential of creative minds cooperating with one another. One way students explored this idea was with collaborative painting. Their tables were covered with large paper, and a different color of paint was set out at each table, along with a variety of brush sizes and types. Students rotated between tables, adding to one another’s designs. The result was colorful, large-scale, collaborative artwork to adorn our hallway!

Students learned about Tyree Guyton and the Heidelberg Project before actually having the chance to go there and walk around. There were many excited gasps when they first caught sight of a house painted with brightly colored dots from the bus windows. After the visit and taking some field notes, we visited Arts and Scraps, an organization that is all about recycling industrial materials and inspiring creativity. The staff there led the students in creating creatures with sticky foam and a variety of recycled materials to be attached at each student’s creative discretion. It was exciting to see the different ideas that they came up with given similar materials!

After, they had the chance to fill up a bag with recycled treasures from Arts and Scraps’ shelves. They were absolutely thrilled about this opportunity! Those materials came back to DAA with us, and students used them in the art room to create flowers for our own Heidelberg-style garden installation.
Students truly showed our habit of character curiosity and creativity and gained a broader understanding of what art can be and what purpose it might serve. If you haven’t been, The Heidelberg Project and Arts and Scraps are both certainly worth checking out, and of course visitors are welcome at DAA to see the latest work by our artists!