"Trash = Art" exhibit. Photo: Steven Spann.
Making art out of recycled materials is nothing new, but Las Vegas-based artist Steven Spann is putting a new twist on the idea by using in his work whatever is collected for him by employees and customers of a most unlikely venue: a hotel/casino in a city known for its excess, not its environmental consciousness.The current artist-in-residence at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Spann has been keeping regular "office hours" at a studio/gallery space on the hotel premises, where people are invited to come by, observe, chat, and contribute whatever bits of trash -- crumpled receipts, candy wrappers -- they have in their pockets and purses for incorporation into his next artwork. Different departments from the hotel also drop off their discards for use in his "Trash = Art" project.
"When Steven approached The Cosmopolitan about a sequel to his first Trash = Art exhibition, we were immediately drawn to his excitement around layering on the interactivity with the audience and the fact that this exhibition would engaging the entire Cosmopolitan community -- our employees, guests, partners, tourists, and locals -- in the creation of art," said Chris Burns, the hotel's director of content and entertainment curation.
Gleaning From Rock Concerts, Lost-And-Found
"The fact that we can take some of the waste from the resort and transform it into art that can have a long-lasting, meaningful, and positive impact on others is a great thing," Burns added about the artistic collaboration.
"The concept is to socially engage people and bring them into a new awareness. They choose [what to bring me]," Spann told Nevada public radio station KNPR. "For most people, when they throw out their trash, the idea of its essence is gone. [But] when you ask people to bring you something, it changes their perception of what it is -- they think, oh, this gum wrapper might have a future."
The artist-in-residence space at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Photo: Steven Spann.
Spann also gets to glean abandoned objects from the hotel's lost-and-found ("lots of shoes, lots of women partying really hard and losing one shoe or breaking the heel") and from special events. He filled one piece with trash from a Strokes concert, but said: "I passed at [incorporating] a sweaty pair of men's underwear I found on the stage. You have to draw the line somewhere."
School Recycled Art Program In The Works
A financial planner for 10 years, Spann, whose six-week residency ends Friday, threw himself into art after watching people who had saved for years to do what they wanted to do later in life lose it all in the stock-market crash. "I thought, maybe I have this backwards -- maybe I should go 100 percent into what I love and figure out the rest later," he told KNPR.
In the future, Spann hopes to bring his artistic concept into the state's poorly funded schools. "Art budgets are getting really cut. I've been in talks with some people about doing a program with elementary schools and showing some of the teachers how to work with the materials the school produces," he told the radio station. "[I want to] try to partner the excess with the need -- going back to trying to use every part of the buffalo."
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