I was tickled when Margo Dunlap, the inspired leader of the Pro Arts organization, asked me to be a judge for Oakland’s 2014 “Re-Create” art competition for K-12 students.

Pro Arts is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year; its mission is to “inspire creativity, community and change.” For the Re-Create event, kids created artwork using discarded or reused materials and competed for prizes that included art supply sets and theater and museum passes. Judging criteria included artistic creativity and originality, skillful use of 100 percent discarded or reused materials, and written environmental statements. Students were encouraged to practice the four Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…and Rot.

When did rot enter into this equation? When my kid was growing up (she’s now 23), it was the three Rs. Apparently compost has moved up in the world. Rot on.

Although the competition included kids as old as high schoolers (and their work really was cool), I was particularly drawn to the creativity of the K-3 crowd, the favorite demographic of the leader of Children’s Fairyland.

Pro Arts artists held free two-hour workshops at local Oakland Public Library branches where these children learned how to turn trash into artistic treasure. They were encouraged to “work with bits, sculpt from scraps or construct with odds and ends.” After the workshop they could choose to enter their work into the Re-Create Contest.

Parents were encouraged to incorporate art at home: many studies indicate that children actually develop valuable life skills through free expression and artistic activities. We’re lucky to have the incredible Oakland resource (originally created by teachers) known as the East Bay Depot for Creative Re-use, an ecological treasure trove where you can stock up on all sorts of fun recyclables to use in art projects.

Two of my favorites K-3 works of art were prize winners. Zach Weyers’ piece was provocatively titled “Naked,” and was composed of foam and pipe cleaners. Zach literally strips away all pretense (and clothing) to suggest to us, through smiling faces, that there is great joy to be found romping in our birthday suits. Zach won second place in his category.

Charlise Lin impressed me with her “The Re-Created Bat,“ made of paper, toilet roll, paper cups, black marker, pastel, and a long plum stick.  With nature as her focus and a bold, inverted perspective, Charlise invites the viewer to literally “hang in there” and take the time to see the world from a different point of view. Charlise received third-place recognition.

Bat art piece

At last Friday’s public reception and awards, held at the beautiful downtown Pro Arts gallery, glasses of lemonade were raised to honor the show’s sponsors; the Oakland city workers who deal with recycling as a day job; the wonderful teachers who encourage art in their classrooms; and of course, the young artists themselves.

One of the many great programs offered by Pro Arts is Youth Arts, which provides in-depth artist residencies in underserved public schools, filling gaps in arts programming and nurturing creativity in youth.

If you think there should be more opportunities for great art like “Naked” and “The Re-created Bat,” consider supporting Pro Arts at proartsgallery.org.


Oakland Local loves Fairyland and hopes you visit with children! Enjoy all our stories from Fairyland by following this tag.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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