Trash to Treasure: Goodwill’s Annual Report to Highlight Work of Creative Upcycle Exchange

April 19, 2016, By Kecia Bal, Tribune-Democrat

WINDBER – Each year, Goodwill of the Southern Alleghenies updates the community on what’s happening at the organization –whether it’s new facilities or new programs. It also honors those who work in partnership with the organization and local high achievers.

But this year, the presentation, scheduled for [Friday, April 22] Earth Day, will have a creative spin.

In keeping with the aim of the organization’s new Creative Upcycle Exchange, a “social enterprise” to extend the lifecycle of industrial byproducts and unsold goods, the annual report this year will be part of a “Waste Art” exhibit of repurposed items put together by area crafters and artisans. A total of 96 pieces of artwork, forged from 4,289 pounds that could have gone to a landfill, will be on display for the exhibit event Friday evening, metalworking artist Diana Shark said.

Shark, also Goodwill’s reuse enterprise business developer, used donated scrap metal from JWF Industries in the piece she’s submitting.

Several of the other artists did the same, she said, with many going beyond their typical media. One woman who typically creates hand-drawn illustrations used pieces of plastic to create an intricate pattern, for example. Another, a portrait artist, tried her hand at painting on a window shade and refinishing a chair.

“They blew me away with their work,” Shark said. “They went above and beyond. They pushed their boundaries.”

Discards with a purpose

The display is part of the culmination of a project that started with a trash-bin dive event in November, where artists were invited to dig for materials for new creations. Artists sifted through tables of wooden household items, glassware, lighting fixtures, picture frames, textiles and three tables of metal. They also were allowed to put on gloves and sift through bins of unsorted discarded items, including byproducts from area businesses, such as raw steel from JWFI and rolls of vinyl from UMF Medical.

The exhibit is also a key event for the exchange, with plans underway to dedicate a space in Goodwill’s 90,000-square-foot Centre for Social Enterprises in Paint Township where participants could shop for preselected items at salvage prices. The items range from metal or byproducts from area manufacturers to more traditional Goodwill wares, such as wooden or glass goods and plenty of fabrics and fibers.

After the show at the Centre for Social Enterprises, the work is to be split among three area arts organizations for more exhibits: Bottle Works in Johnstown’s Cambria City neighborhood, Laurel Arts in Somerset and Locality in Bedford. The artwork has to be comprised of at least 50 percent salvaged materials. The artwork be on display together again at a maker festival at Pitt-Johnstown in June, Shark said.

Creative solutions

Each artist had to put a price tag on the pieces, for insurance’s sake – though some will be available for purchase. The value of the products from those 4,289 pounds of “junk” bound for a landfill totals $37,397, Shark said.

“This is a chance to see what a creative mind can do with something like that,” she said. “This is stuff you’d see lying on the side of the road or in a dumpster somewhere or even in the back of your closet. All these things have a life beyond what you might think.”

It also shows how far artists can take industrial byproducts, she said.

“Even for businesses, they can look at their own waste stream and be open to the idea that there could be a creative reuse for the things they’re sending to a landfill,” Shark said.

The community is invited to the event, which also is to include recognition of community partners and Goodwill’s 2015 award recipients for achiever of the year and employers of the year, a tour of the Centre for Social Enterprises, a performance by Johnstown Symphony Youth Orchestra and complimentary hors d’oeuvres, desserts, beverages, beer and wine.

Admission is $10. Proceeds benefit the programs and services of Goodwill of the Southern Alleghenies

Online Shopping at Goodwill

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At Goodwill of the Southern Alleghenies, we know that our donors value their donations to Goodwill and want us to get the maximum value possible to support our mission. Listing these items on Shopgoodwill allows us to generate more revenue because these items go to the highest bidders who know the values of the items.

Donors can be sure that the revenue generated from the sale of their donated items on will support job training and employment services for people in their community – just as it does through purchases made in our 10 Goodwill Retail Stores.