Turning waste into art is a community affair

A forthcoming exhibition showcasing artwork made from waste teaches us that being sustainable can be a highly creative and socially conscious exercise.

Art can challenge our thinking in many ways but it’s especially powerful when it provides an outlet for social change.

For 10 years the City of Ryde has run the Sustainable Waste to Art Prize (SWAP) which encourages locals to reimagine the creative potential of waste, promoting reduction, recycling and reuse and sustainable living.

This year, like many other exhibitions impacted by COVID-19, SWAP will be presented as a digital exhibition comprising a video launch, virtual tour and online catalogue. The exhibition opened on 23 September and will run until 8 October.

The exhibition is designed to raise awareness about waste and sustainability issues through the playful medium of art.

‘Art and creativity has the powerful ability to connect with people on an emotional level and generate discussions about important issues,’ said Stephanie Keane, Waste Project Coordinator at City of Ryde.

‘Through our SWAP exhibition, we’re able to get the message out about the need for better waste management practices and sustainable living to a broader audience who might not normally take an interest in environmental issues.’

This year, SWAP has been developed by the City of Ryde in partnership with Meadowbank TAFE, giving students hands-on experience helping to curate the exhibition. This will count towards their semester of study. 

Art which symbolises the environment

City of Ryde’s  2020 SWAP exhibition. Image supplied.

As SWAP has evolved over the years, themes have changed to reflect issues currently affecting our environment. 

This year, over 80 community members have contributed artworks which respond to climate change, the current worldwide health crisis, as well as the impact of single-use plastics on our environment. 

In previous years, one of the standout pieces which caught Keane’s eye was a work which transformed plastic packaging into a piece of apparel.

‘Each year there are artworks that get you thinking about waste in a new way. For example, last year an artist created a skirt out of the multi-coloured packets that sanitary pads come in which started some good conversations,’ she said.

This year there is $5,000 in prize money up for grabs across six categories: Open (18+ years), Youth (14-17 years), Junior (10-13 years), Functional, Schools Participation, and People’s Choice, with the judging panel including visual artist Rox De Luca, sculptor Shane Forrest and co-founder of social enterprise Good for the Hood, Jo Taranto.

Keane said the competition is just one aspect of her role and she’s constantly exploring the ways in which we think about sustainability.

‘My job is to think of initiatives to educate people about the importance of waste minimisation,’ she said.

‘The SWAP art exhibition is a creative way to get the word out there. It helps us connect to a broader community who wouldn’t necessarily come to a waste workshop or go to a climate strike,’ she concluded.

SWAP will run from 24 September – 8 October. Visit The City of Ryde’s website for more information.