Newcastle Waldorf School: The Art of Recycling

Newcastle Waldorf School

The Art of Recycling

In recent years, the final year 10 art project has been rubbish, well, about collecting and repurposing it. They have been involved in the very challenging yet rewarding process of taking the detritus, the litter that washes up on the shores of Newcastle harbour as well as rubbish from the school grounds, to make works of art that explore notions of what this unfortunate human legacy means; for the viewer, for the environment and for themselves as the makers of aesthetic and conceptual works.

The obvious connection with the ocean and litter and how it impacts on the life forms that inhabit this environment is a common theme that has been explored and allows an immediate entry point into the decisions about subject matter and how to represent ideas. The key to these works is to utilise, recycle and essentially transform the waste material into something that can transcend the materiality and sense of chaos and disgust through the process of sculpting, assembling and reframing.

Students work in groups to create artworks and in some instances, these have been non- permanent shadow works, inspired by artist duo Tim Noble and Sue Webster, where shadow and light transform the chaotic piles of rubbish into coherent images or the recent works from this year that use wire mesh and embed the rubbish into this as both texture, tone and decoration, inspired by artists such as Kendra Haste’s wire works and the practice of John Dahlsen.

From the initial immersion into this process, that of collecting and then sorting the rubbish – a process that with each cohort has been a fascinating treasure hunt filled with intrigue, humour, incredulity and often moments of dry retching, they have embarked on the projects with a sense of purpose and inspiration. However, not long into this comes a shock of how complicated and uncertain this process actually is. The rewards of application in problem solving, both aesthetically and technically really pay off and they walk away after the module with a great sense of achievement. Many have also found it a powerful insight into artistic practice and how artists can convey important messages in such diverse ways. On a more pragmatic level, this project is also about empowering these students to make a difference; picking up that piece of litter and experiencing the satisfaction that can come from this action.