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May 28, 2008

Turning Trash to Treasures

The San Francisco Recycling Sculpture Garden.

by Brook Wilkinson

I never thought I'd be recommending a city dump as a tourist attraction. But that was before I visited San Francisco Recycling & Disposal's "transfer station." The Pit, where the city's garbage is dumped every day before being trucked to landfills, is a smelly mess inhabited by scavenging seagulls. But just outside is a sculpture garden worthy of any city park. And every single piece of art in it is made from trash.

You see, SF Recycling & Disposal runs an Artist in Residence program -- the kind of program that you might imagine would be set up by a wealthy benefactor or a do-gooder corporation. Bay Area artists apply for the four-month program, which gives them 24-hour access to the Public Disposal area, where they can "go shopping" for materials, studio space, and a monthly stipend. It's quite amazing what past artists (more than 65 have gone through the program since 1990) have made out of the city's trash. Want to see more, and learn how you can visit? Read on.

Past artist-in-residence works inside SF Recycling.

Those glass plates in the middle of the table were made from broken bus shelters. The sculpture behind them co-opts a floor polisher, jewelry box, chair parts, shoe forms, and other discarded items to the create "The Performer," a three-foot-tall kinetic sculpture.

Air You too can take a tour of SF Recycling's artist-in-residence program. Tours are held at 10a.m. on the third Saturday of every month and visit the gallery, the studio (where you'll meet the current artist, like Paul Cesewski, shown at right with some of his work), the pit, and the sculpture garden. To sign up for a tour, call Deborah Munk at 415-330-1415.


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