Upcycle St. Clair

St Clair Superior Development Corporation

Funding Received: 2013
Cleveland, OH
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
November 12, 2013

Upcycling is a creative art process that reimagines leftover, discarded materials and creatively transforms them into new products or pieces of art. It’s gaining momentum in Cleveland and this innovative art form has proven successful for many regional artists.

In the Upcycle St. Clair project we are working to strengthen economic opportunities for the existing artisan economy at the same time we want to engage community residents and merchants who have lived in this neighborhood for years.  Many of the latter haven’t heard the word ‘upcycle’ before and we want to introduce them to the concept, the creativity, the expression, and the economic opportunity available in the marketplace we’ve created.   We’re reaching for a new audience and building off what we know about an existing one.  It’s an interesting balance, trying to reach both but we feel it’s the key to the success of our project.  Since writing our ArtPlace proposal, the language “thrive in place” has stuck with us and we find ourselves talking about it every time we talk about what we’re doing in St. Clair.

Recent Wins
We organized an event in September that was nothing more than hanging out on the sidewalk.  But we offered free gourmet popsicles made by a local artisanal company that couldn’t promise what kind they’d bring until the produce was delivered the day before.  And we invited people to craft with reclaimed vinyl zoo banners (for upcycled pinwheels).  We provided temporary benches made of overturned buckets and we all interacted with the public art installation right there.  Somehow, the whole thing was magical.  It was an awesome reminder that what matters are people, individually, and the experiences they have.  Not ‘audiences.’  Even if it helps us to strategize in these terms, the takeaway for us was that the way people feel in the spaces we’re activating and the experiences we’re creating is what matters.

after school upcyclers

We’ve been spending one afternoon a week introducing the practice of creative reuse at the high school in our district.  In collaboration with their art teacher, we started an upcycle ambassadors after school club.  Our first project has been to transform plastic bottles into flowers.  Each week we move one step forward in creative plastic flowers that will decorate the street when completed.