In celebration of Earth Day, Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino unveiled a new Recycled Material Art Gallery Tuesday, which features artwork that is made entirely of salvaged, reused and recycled materials. The 'Trash as Treasure' themed exhibit is located within the Material Recovery Facility (the county's primary recycling center) in Yonkers, where thousands of Westchester youth visit each year.
"Educating our young people about the importance of recycling is crucial, and that is what this artwork helps us do," said County Executive Robert P. Astorino. "This exhibit helps them understand why recycling is essential: to make the most of our natural resources, conserve energy and help protect the environment. It's one of the most important ways we can help keep Westchester green."
The artwork was hand-crafted by six Westchester artists using thousands of pounds of recycled or reused materials over a six-month period. Hand-painted murals with environmental themes compliment the pieces.
"Artists have always been known for recycling materials starting with Marcel Duchamp in the opening decades of the twentieth century," said Janet Langsam, executive director of ArtsWestchester, which referred several of the artists to the county. "Kudos to Westchester County for continuing this tradition."
The one-of-a-kind arts and learning space was made possible by county employees (carpenters, electricians and painters) and City Carting staff who worked together to keep costs low. With the help of a 50 percent reimbursement under a New York State grant, the total project cost is estimated to be approximately $20,000.
"Westchester invests in education and values recycling," said Department of Environmental Facilities Commissioner Thomas J. Lauro, P.E. "That is how this innovative and multi-media gallery came about, and it is also why the county is a national leader in recycling."
Westchester's recycling rate of 52 percent far outpaces the EPA national average of 35 percent and the New York State average of 36 percent.
"My hope is that this artwork encourages people to think differently about the things they throw away," said Mary Ann Lomonaco, one of the local artists whose work is on display at the gallery. "There are many fun and creative ways to give your discarded materials a second life. I was pleased to be able to demonstrate just a few." Lomonaco, a resident of Larchmont and graduate of the Parsons School of Design, constructed an American flag using aluminum cans and bottle tops, and fashioned a geometric design out of Department of Environmental Facilities pens that were out of ink.
Other contributing artists include Richard Benash of Yonkers, Shelita Birchett Benash of Yonkers, Piero Manrique of Mamaroneck, Daniel Potocki of Mount Vernon and Joel Romero of Mount Vernon.
View the guide to the gallery, including pictures of the artwork, descriptions of the materials used and artist biographies.
Tours of the Recycled Material Art Gallery and Education Center are free of charge and are given on an appointment-only basis. The tours last about an hour and educate participants on the recycling process in Westchester County. On the tours, guests (kindergarten and up) watch a welcome video from County Executive Robert P. Astorino; see the recycled pieces of artwork; and view the tipping floor, where about 250 tons of recyclables are delivered and dropped off each day. Each year the MRF accommodates over 6,000 visitors, including thousands of students from schools throughout Westchester.
Over 70,000 tons of recyclables are brought to the MRF and processed each year, generating over $6 million in revenue. In addition, the county saves over $6 million by not having to dispose of these materials as garbage.
The MRF is located at 1 Stew Leonard Drive in Yonkers (Exit 6A/Stew Leonard Drive off the NYS Thruway/Interstate 87, just opposite Home Depot and Stew Leonard's).
For more information or to schedule a tour of the MRF's Education Center and Recycled Material Art Gallery, visit Department of Environmental Facilities online, or call the Westchester County Recycling Helpline at (914) 813-5425.
Photo: County Executive Robert P. Astorino and kindergartners from Edgemont's Seely Place School cut the ribbon at the opening of the Recycled Material Art Gallery in Yonkers on Tuesday, while the local artists, Westchester County employees and City Carting staff that created the gallery cheer them on.