What’s the Use?

Sometimes people will ask me that. I recently had a friend suggest that my focus on picking up trash was a bit inane. I think his intention was to make sure I wasn’t “overdoing it,” to let go of the litter thing and allow myself time to “smell the roses” and cast aside whatever limitations I’ve placed on myself, my lifestyle, and to remember to be present. “When in Rome….” Perhaps his intention was for me to be able to “relax” and better enjoy life.

What’s the use? Well, I’ll share one story. Frank Polanco and Henrique Souza, who knew about my work, recently contacted me about an inactive utility pole in the lot next to their gallery (House of Art) in Fort Lauderdale. No longer used for utility lines, they invited me to use it for my Global TRASHformation work. Together, we discussed some options and came up with a plan.

The top half has a spiral of LED string lights and the bottom half we provided space for a community collaborative opportunity to repurpose cans and other metal objects that were recovered from the neighborhood streets and parking lots. I had been collecting them for several years and knew at some point their value would show up. The really flattened ones that had oxidized were my favorites. I now had a USE for them. An event was created where nearly 50 people wanted to “play”, selecting a piece of metal litter from the collection (flattened can or bottle cap) and either hammering or stapling it onto the pole. What’s the use?

Yeah, it’s not changed the world, and no, it’s not made any major dent in the litter issue in Broward County, however, it has changed the lives of all those who participated one way or another, bringing attention to this issue in a fun, USEFUL way. We now have a really cool sculptural artwork in the neighborhood. And maybe, just maybe, it will inspire other artful uses of the litter that surrounds us. As I was finishing up at the end of the day, someone suggested a name for the piece: “Totem”. I think it’s a fit; what do you think?

I’ve booked my first trip to Rome. I’ll see firsthand how they deal with litter there.