What does it mean to be a “solid waste management activist”? Ask Margot Becker, who describes herself as a writer, collage artist and former dancer who envisions a world where there’s no such thing as garbage – that is, where everything is used, reused, repurposed or recycled. Or how about a world where excess materials are not manufactured in the first place, due to a revolutionary transformation in our consumer habits?
“An important component of the whole trash issue is asking ourselves, ‘What do I really need?’ We buy stuff and trash it without really using it,” she says. “Landfills and methane are also linked to greenhouse gases; waste is a great generator of them. It takes energy to make all the stuff we don’t need, and then it all gets burned or put into landfills.” Short of totally eliminating all carbon-producing excess, Becker has birthed “Trash Fest”: a monthlong series of free art and educational events in Marbletown during June.
A series of art projects created out of actual trash is planned for artists of all disciplines, along with educational presentations that offer the public hints on ways to reduce/reuse waste. To kick off the monthlong focus on Saturday, June 4, the Marbletown Transfer Station at 135 Canal Road in High Falls is being turned into an art gallery with large-scale art, a new mural on-site and a fun opening with opportunities for the public to get involved.
Activities at the High Falls facility will run from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., and will include a demo with John Michelotti of Catskill Fungus and a performance by Ventiko, along with a site-specific sculpture by Skip LaPlante and a sculptural structure by Alexander Lyle. Bill Ylitalo, director of Gamelan at Bard and the New School, is making musical instruments out of junk for the public to play. A new mural by High Falls’ own Eugene Stetz will grace the truck trailers at the Transfer Station. From 3:30 to 5:30 that same day, the Wired Gallery at 11 Mohonk Road in High Falls will show works of art made of resourced materials by Judith Hoyt, Chuck Davidson, Loel Barr, Lenny Kislin, Jeanne Verdoux, Ana Bergen, Chris Fanjul and Carey King, which will be on display all month.
On Sunday, June 5, a concert will be performed at the Rail Trail Café at 310 River Road Extension in New Paltz. Four musicians will make music on junk, including Bill Ylitalo, a member of Karl Berger’s Improvisers Orchestra, the Big Sky Ensemble and Gamelan Djam Gong; Skip LaPlante, who co-founded Music for Homemade Instruments; violist Anastasia Solberg of the Ellenville Chamber Players, VIOLent PERseCution and the American Festival of Microtonal Music; and Peter Head of Gus Mancini’s Sonic Soul Band and Pitchfork Militia. Bring the whole family from 7 to 10 p.m.
The goal of Trash Fest is to get people to think about trash and come up with better ways to better deal with it. “I’ve been working in arts and waste management and the environment for a long time,” says Becker. “It all came together in my mind. A lot can happen here that can’t happen in bigger places. The main thing is that it’s really fun to make art and to make it out of stuff that looks useless. Our species is incredibly creative. Our brains can come up with solutions. Art is a metaphor for coming up with these solutions.”
Other public events include a film showing of Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic? on Wednesday, June 15 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Marbletown Community Center at 3564 Main Street in Stone Ridge; “Reducing Your Personal Waste Stream” with Jacquie Ottman on Thursday, June 16 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., also at the Marbletown Community Center; a Composting Workshop presented by the Cornell Cooperative Extension on Saturday, June 18 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Cornell Community Garden at SUNY-Ulster, located at 491 Cottekill Road in Stone Ridge; and a Reusable Bag Law Workshop on Wednesday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Marbletown Community Center.
This project is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by Arts Mid-Hudson. Trash Fest is sponsored by the League of Women Voters Mid-Hudson Region and by the Marbletown Environmental Conservation Commission. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call (917) 715-2697 or visit Trash Fest Ulster on Facebook.