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Rubbish art... that's anything but!

Updated: Jul 18, 2018

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Banking has never been so creative!

Inside the old HSBC building in Shepton Mallet, something rubbish is happening. "Err... so why are you wasting our time with it," you shout, as you reach for the tea/orange squash/gin (delete as appropriate) and vow never to read these blogs ever again! ;)

Well, hang on just a minute... we only say rubbish because this beautiful ex-bank (with its' high ceilings, character by the vault-load and new name the 'Art Bank'), has become home to a small group of artists who are taking 'rubbish' - unwanted belongings, materials, donated plastic and waste - and turning it into works of public art, with the help of the Somerset community.

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Local people are bringing in all kinds of unwanted materials that are being turned into art

Is this a modern-day Womble movement? Creating cool stuff from 'things that the everyday folk leave behind'? ;) Well, it's something like that!

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Van Gogh's Sunflowers, recreated from unwanted plastics... spot the pegs!

The Rubbish Art Project, created by Lucy Smith and Maggie Briggs, is on a mission to raise awareness about the growing concerns of plastic pollution - and to encourage us all to rethink our own approach to waste, by "reducing, recycling and reusing", and by bringing local people together to make art that we can all contribute to and be proud of.

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Reduce, Recycle, Reuse... and be part of it

Lucy and Maggie know a fair bit about sustainability too, having promoted and implemented green initiatives at Glastonbury Festival for the past five years - and with that experience under their belts, the bank has become a community workshop space and coffee shop, with lots of things for us all to get involved with over the coming months.

As Lucy tells me when I visit the bank to chat to her about the project:

"We're trying to engulf the town of Shepton Mallet with artwork made from recycled materials and we want to give the town some love, to prove that an inclusive space like the Art Bank helps to galvanise a community" .

And it's definitely happening!

Local people have been dropping in with everything from bottle tops and buttons to old crockery, to be transformed into unique Somerset art.

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Some of the 'rubbish' being put to good use

As Lucy says:

"If you've got the right space, vision and a goal, you can repurpose all these things. It's not easy in a domestic situation, so we've found that people are just happy to be able to donate things they've had sitting around. There's something really satifying about that".

And these things are already being put to artistic use! There's been a workshop to create a Shepton Mallet Sheep...

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Baa-ing brilliant!

Led by local artist, Fiona Campbell (who made a frame from salvaged wire), a group of young people aged between 6 and 18 used other reclaimed materials to collectively create this cracking tribute to Shepton's wool making history.

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The group, getting stuck in!

Another youth project, to create a 'Tree of Life' around the Art Bank's central pillar, has just begun... led by costume designer, Elanor Edowski, and resident Art Bank artist, Dimitris Koutroumpas. Dimitris makes amazing miniature gardens in old books and some of his work is on display in the bank. Isn't it awesome?

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Gives a new meaning to the phrase 'coming off the page'

There's another inspiring project happening every Wednesday from 7-9pm too, when anyone can drop by the Art Bank and help create a huge Polar Bear scultpure, using broken CD's and DVD'S.

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A thing of the past?

This striking polar bear has been donated by Greenpeace (after having spent a few years at Glastonbury Festival where its' hair had pretty much all fallen out!) and 'A thing of the past'

will draw attention to plastic waste created in days gone by, that's difficult to recycle and is landfilled today. It'll also provide a call to action to help Polar Bears in the Arctic.

The plan is to sit this community-created sculpture on a bed of plastic in the town square during Art Weeks, turning it in to an immersive installation for Shepton.

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A mosaic from music

​So, whether you fancy donating something to The Rubbish Art Project, getting involved in a workshop or dropping by for a cup of tea and a chat, whilst checking out some of the cool artwork on the walls, there's an opportunity for everyone to tap in to their own creativity. As I chat with Lucy, I can see that this really inspires her...

"People come to the bank and we'll say "come and get involved in this project" and some will say "I can't, I'm not creative" but for us, art isn't about being able to draw or paint a picture. It's about the spirit you have inside of you. With this project, we're saying everyone is born an artist and it's about remaining one when you grow up. We want to encourage this spirit in Shepton Mallet and everyone has a part to play".

Well for me, as I leave the Art Bank, I'm definitely filled with the energy and enthusiasm that you get from a team of people really trying to do something different. When you bring a community together with the purpose of creating art, having fun and learning some really important stuff along the way, we think that's a cause for celebration.

And we'll definitely be back to help with the Polar Bear mosaic! Fancy joining us? ;)

If you want to contribute materials for use at The Rubbish Art Project, check out what they need right here. For all the workshops and projects you can get involved with, you need to see this. Our interview with Lucy was recorded for radio and will feature in our very first Somerset cool Live radio show, coming to Frome FM soon.

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Wall art with a difference


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