One person’s trash is another one’s canvas!
Trash cans in Northern Liberties are looking a whole lot brighter thanks to
children at NLArts.
NLArts, a youth-inspired community art group centered in Northern Liberties, recently completed its trashcan redesign project.
Children ages five to 15 contributed sketches that were applied to the BigBelly trash cans throughout the community.
The project added not only an aesthetic value to the solar-powered trash compactors, but also helped foster artistic growth and community involvement in the youth.
“NLArts is really designed to help bridge the spirit of the community and art to the kids,” said Monika Kreidie, one of the founding members and current secretary of NLArts.
Founded in 2003, NLArts was established by a group of mothers in the neighborhood who were concerned about their children’s educational prospects. After getting over 100 families involved, the group was well on its way to starting its own arts-centered charter school.
In the end, due to discrepancies between the group and the School Reform Commission, the school never came to fruition.
In 2006, while the idea of the charter school had dissolved, the group realized that they still had money from the state and more importantly, a lot of enthusiasm.
“We thought, ‘what do we do? Let’s just turn this negative into a positive,’ ” Kreidie said. “ ‘Let’s do what we wanted to do in workshops in a community arts program.’ ”
The group began utilizing the Northern Liberties Community Center, 700 N. Third St., to provide the youth with a much-needed artistic experience.
“The creative spirit that art teaches the kids could be used in anything that you do,” Kreidie said. “It’s about thinking outside the box
The idea for the trash can redesign project started brewing about five years ago when Kreidie and fellow neighbors found inspiration in the funky, artistic trash cans that line South Street.
With Robert Woodword, the artist who completed the aforementioned project, being an acquaintance of Kreidie and his own child being part of NLArts, Kreidie saw the perfect opportunity to begin developing the project.
In order to fund the project, NLArts turned to the Penn Treaty Special Services District (PTSSD).
In 2013, NLArts was awarded a $12,000 grant to complete the project, according to Katrina Mansfield, administrative secretary of PTSSD.
“Art is a really important avenue for kids and by pairing it with the idea of civic responsibility, it’s just a great thing to teach kids,” said Rick Angeli, chairman of the board at PTSSD and long-time Northern Liberties resident.
After evaluating the benefits of the project and its value to the community, PTSSD decided to award NLArts the grant for both its beautification potential and its impact on the community and its youth.
“I just think it’s a slam dunk,” Angeli said. “It’s a really positive project for everybody involved.”
The project lost momentum when lead artist Woodward was pulled in another direction, leaving him unable to complete the project.
Fortunately, Kreidie found local artists Jared Gruenwald and Natasha Mell-Taylor to pick up where the project left off. The two artists added direction to the project that would eventually guide it to completion.
“We wanted it to be about the idea of collaboration, but to think about it in a different context.” said Mell-Taylor, Massachusetts College of Art and Design graduate and current Port Richmond resident. “We wanted to expand the kids’ minds with that idea.”
After leading a few more NLArts workshops and asking kids to submit drawings of things that inspired them in nature, paint pictures of how they saw themselves as superheroes, and incorporate abstract visuals, the project was back on its feet again.
Each design also includes a “hidden” trash can.
“Community based organizations like NLArts are really where my heart is and it’s the collaboration that makes them,” Nell-Taylor said. “It’s really important to bring different types of people together and for students to see this happen.”
The two then began to take the artwork of about 40 and 50 kids and layer it so that each trash can would weave multiple drawings together to tell a story.
Once the art was completed, it made its way to Color Reflections, 475 N. Fifth St., to be printed to scale.
“The whole heart of Northern Liberties, historically, is bolstered through artists,” said Eric Berger, founder and president of Color Reflections and a previous long-time resident of Northern Liberties.
Founded in 1989, Color Reflections is a Northern Liberties-based, family run printing company that produces graphics for everything from banners in center city to the big images that are applied to busses and planes.
Once the images were printed, laminated, and cut to size, they were applied to the BigBelly trash cans around the neighborhood. For some, that means seeing their art on a daily basis.
“I always liked doing art, but I wasn’t necessarily the best artist,” said Julia Trachtman, sixth grader at Frankford Friends School who has been involved in NLArts for about five years.
“Overall the project was really fun,” Trachtman said. “I liked putting my designs on something.”
While the students involved may say the programs and workshops at NLArts a pure form of fun, there are larger forces at work for the leadership of the organization.
In light of the lack of funding for the arts at public schools, the programs offered through NLArts are all the more important to provide an avenue for the youth to learn skills critical to all aspects of life.
“It’s a trying time,” Kreidie said. “My philosophy is, ‘Can you ever have too much art?’ I don’t think so.”
To learn more about NLArts, visit nlarts.org.
Contact Star at firstname.lastname@example.org.