From trash to treasures: campus dumpsters get serious makeovers

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Oxy students paint their designs on their dumpsters in the parking lot of Haines Hall at Occidental College in Los Angeles, on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Ivy Denham-Conroy/Occidental Weekly

Earlier this academic year, Jim Crowder, an Occidental groundskeeper, proposed an artistic solution to the mundane look of the many dumpsters on campus that are visible from two or more different angles. This led to Sustainability Coordinator Jenny Low organizing a contest that ran Oct. 27–Nov. 8 for students to submit designs for the dumpsters, which they painted in the Haines parking lot. Three designs won the contest depicting boba tea, floral designs and tropical fish. Margaret Su* (senior), Danika Odell (sophomore) and Melissa Gutierrez Gonzalez** (first year) won the design contest. A committee comprised of Art and Art History professors, Oxy Arts faculty and studio art majors elected the winning designs through a voting process; submission names were omitted in order to eliminate any potential biases, according to Low.

According to an email in the Oxy Students Digest sent by Low, Facilities, the Art and Art History departments, Oxy Arts and the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) co-sponsored the contest winners’ dumpster paintings.

Margaret Su’s finished design on the side of her dumpster in the parking lot of Haines Hall at Occidental College in Los Angeles, on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Ivy Denham-Conroy/Occidental Weekly

Depending on feasibility and garbage needs, more dumpsters will eventually be painted as well, according to Low. It is unlikely that every dumpster will be painted as they are not all visible to passersby from multiple viewpoints.

“[Painting more dumpsters] is part of the goal, but it kind of just depends on demand and funding,” Low said.

Low invited the entire community — students, faculty, staff and friends — to help the artists paint their designs Nov. 15 from 12–4 p.m. Earlier that day, from 8 a.m.–12 p.m. artists helped sketch out their initial designs on the dumpster.

Odell is a studio art major who spends portions of her free time helping feed the chickens in the Food, Energy, and Sustainability Team (FEAST) garden. The piece she chose to submit for the competition is one that she had previously created for a printmaking class.

“In my printmaking class, I was focusing on the contours of the flowers, so that made a good outline for painting on a dumpster,” Odell said.

The inspiration for Odell’s design comes from her home in Mulino, Oregon; the flowers were based on those in her backyard. According to Odell, the dumpster painting project was a way to experience painting with different materials, and being a studio art major added a layer of comfort to the process. In the future, she is looking forward to participating in more sustainability efforts at Occidental.

Melissa Gutierrez’s finished design on her dumpster in the parking lot of Haines Hall at Occidental College in Los Angeles, on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2017. Ivy Denham-Conroy/Occidental Weekly

“I thought it would be a fun way to get involved,” Odell said. “It seemed like a neat community project.”

Su said she enjoys graphic design for pleasure and found out about the project through a Facebook post by Liz Richmond (junior) on an Occidental student group page. Painting the dumpster itself was something both unexpected and fun, according to Su. She spent two hours in the morning sketching out the design onto the dumpster and then an additional five hours painting it in the afternoon.

“Jenny [Low] and [guest artist] Molly Allis were really helpful,” Su said. “I had never really done anything like this before.”

For students who would like to submit a design to paint a dumpster of their own, another submission deadline will be announced soon, Low stated in an email. The exact date is yet to be determined but will likely be during the first week of the Spring 2018 semester, according to Low.

*Margaret Su is a member of The Occidental Weekly.

**The Occidental Weekly did not receive a response from Melissa Gutierrez Gonzalez.