El Dorado High School students, staff and community members have been working on a “trash to art” project that won the school national recognition for their commitment to clean-up the environment.
El Dorado art teacher Candace Printz, who won Barnes & Noble’s national community-oriented project inspired by Clinton’s “It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!” book, has been leading the clean-up effort in the El Paso desert. The goal is to transform the trash into art and showcase the pieces in a traveling gallery exhibit later this school year.
Printz, her students, El Dorado teachers and staff and the community have spent Saturdays scouring a four-mile stretch of Montana Avenue picking up everything, including hundreds of cigarette butts, a television, high school diplomas and, even $10.
“We have seen some really interesting things,” Printz said. “We have been getting a lot of help. It’s amazing because it has been El Dorado students and teachers, robotic students, people from EPCC (El Paso Community College) and from non-profits who are helping out. The word is spreading. I am really excited.”
The inspiration for the “trash to art” project occurred when Printz and her art club kids saw how new development, especially off Montana, was affecting the local landscape.
“We noticed tons of trash and debris had blown into the desert,” Printz said. “It just looked horrible. The students didn’t like it and I didn’t like it. That is not how we wanted our area to be represented. We thought ‘Why don’t we be inspired by sculptors in the world who have taken trash and turned it into art.’ We want to make a difference.”
When Printz saw a brochure at Barnes & Noble that asked teachers nationwide to submit a project that would help their community, she submitted the “trash to art” idea.
“It was just amazing,” Printz said. “I thought they were choosing multiple people throughout the U.S. Then I find out we were the sole winners. From all over the United States, they chose our project in El Dorado High School in El Paso, Texas.”
Besides a $100 gift card from the book giant, the high school also received a visit from Clinton, daughter of former President Bill and Sen. Hilary Clinton. Her book asked U.S. citizens to find things to make the world a better place. El Dorado’s project fit that criteria perfectly, Clinton said during her visit last April.
“I am really glad that schools like this exist,” Clinton said. “It gives me hope for the future.”
Now that the project has kicked off, Printz and her students are planning more cleanups through the end of October. They also will be sorting, washing and counting all the collected trash.
“We need a lot of help with what we have picked up already,” Printz said, who is planning sorting and washing Saturdays in November. “There is so much stuff.”
“It’s going to be a competition and we will give away prizes,” Printz said. “We will have elementary, middle, high school and adult categories.”
But the main goal of the project is to educate and bring awareness of the current condition that illegal dumping has on the El Paso desert and its long term effects on the environment, she said.
“We want to educate the community to get involved and help clean the environment,” Printz added.
The art pieces created will be showcased at different galleries to demonstrate the art, show the environmental consequences and instill a sense of pride in the city,” Printz said.
The art will be available for purchase, with the proceeds benefiting the community groups who have helped collect the trash, including the Humane Society of El Paso, the Chihuahuan Desert Education Coalition and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The first trash to art exhibit is expected to be open April 2017, in celebration of Earth Day.
In addition to the “It’s Your World” project, Printz also is planning free workshops to teach the community how to turn trash to art. The classes will be funded through a $5,000 grant Printz received from the City of El Paso’s Museum of Cultural Affairs Department.
“The benefits of recycling will play a large role in these workshops,” Printz said. “I plan to use the grant money to hire artists for the citywide workshops and buy the art supplies needed. My students will be assisting me throughout this process and can attend any of the workshops for free.”