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Some Call It Garbage, Others Call It Art

by Elyse Beaudoin on July 6, 2011 · 1 comment

Photo by Julia Zave


When people think of garbage cans, they rarely think of beauty. It may bring up memories of being stuck behind a city garbage truck on a one-way street while trying to get to work. It may be a memory of rancid stench or the grime that grows on the bottom of the can if you don’t spray it out with a hose. Local merchants and artists are working to change the idea that our trash can’t be aesthetically pleasing.

Last summer, the Delaware Avenue Merchant Group began collaborating with the City of Albany and the Upstate Artists Guild to create a more ‘eclectic’ neighborhood. This resulted in Canned Art, a project focused on creating hand-painted trash receptacles to decorate store fronts on Delaware Avenue.

“People want Delaware Avenue to be an arts district,” said Michael Weidrich Vice President of the Upstate Artists Guild and 1st Friday Coordinator. “It speaks to the businesses and the street.”

For paintings on garbage cans, it’s uncanny how non-trashy these works are. Bright, beautiful murals of ice cream cones, poodles, bamboo shoots, pizza pies and more line the outside of about fifteen receptacles. But why trash cans?

“It’s my philosophy that everything is a blank canvas,” said Weidrich. “They could be like any other neighborhood with plain old trash cans, but they wanted to do something that hasn’t been done in Albany before.”

During the planning for the economic stimulus restoration, DAMG encouraged the City of Albany to fund the new receptacles. Keith Pickard, co-owner of the Spectrum 8 Theatres and the Ultraviolet Café, contacted members of the artists guild and arranged to have the cans painted. Merchants from businesses including New World Bistro, Albany Nursery and Northeastern Dental, just to name a few, funded the artists who would be working on their cans. Each receptacle portrays a subject that matches the business it represents.

“We had the cans out to be photographed and the little children in the neighborhood were running all around the cans,” said Pickard. “They really seemed to enjoy them.”

Delaware Avenue shops, restaurants and art venues hope that the Canned Art project will help to beautify the neighborhood. Not only will these cans provide original artwork on the street, but they will also help reduce litter.

“The merchants have a strong want to bring art to the community,” said Pickard. “It’s not really about boosting commerce. It’s more a quality of life issue, making something that people can enjoy in our walk-through neighborhood.”

Canned Art will soon be unveiled for the community to see, and many will get their first glimpse at the Delaware Avenue Street Fair this Saturday (July 9), where residents and visitors alike can enjoy food, music, garage sales and variety of art, even the kind that comes in a can.

“It was a big project and it took us about a year,” said Weidrich, “We hope it will make Albany a more beautiful city and that it is seen and enjoyed for years to come.”

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