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HS Students Paint Recycling Totters

Artfully Recycle, is a community art project that brings people together and recycling to Greenfield’s downtown.


If you have wished there were a handy place to throw away an empty can or bottle in the public areas of Greenfield, your wishes are coming true.  Thanks to the art students at Greenfield High, Wisty Rorabacher, and a grant from the Greenfield Local Cultural Council, a community art project called Artfully Recycle was born. Our Town is now decorated with eye-catching toters that call out to you to recycle those cans and bottles.  

Eight Greenfield High School students were inspired to do something to cut the amount of trash that goes to our land fills. Wisty Rorabacher, a retired high school teacher who has completed numerous community-based projects with students that won national awards, applied for a Local Cultural Council grants, because she knew that public art projects done by teenagers help build positive relations between young and older citizens, students and town officials. “I wanted to do a project combining my interest in art, education, community, and sustainability.”  

Artfully Recycle was a group effort. In addition to the students and the grant, Sandy Shields and Janine Greaves, Greenfield Department of Public Works agreed to provide 10 large, green toters for the students to paint. Shields and Greaves also agreed to judge the students’ designs to insure that the designs would attract attention and increase city-wide recycling.  Art teacher Debbie Prondecki welcomed the toters and the clutter of a group art activity into a section of her classroom.  

Prondecki and Rorabacher met with the students and talked about both recycling, as part of sustainability, and graphic design.  The students were challenged with articulating simple, clear messages about sustainability and communicating those ideas through original designs.  

Kids paint recling toters“When I began this project, I thought of all the instruments I used to make out of pan-tins, pots, and bottles, all recyclable products. I wanted to use this idea to incorporate music with nature.” said twelfth grader Candace Bellville describing her design process. “ I really hope these bins catch people’s attention and get them to think more about recycling and their effect on nature.  Hopefully, this will be another big step in helping Greenfield become more green.”

Many challenges popped up as the project evolved. Should the designs be single sided or wrap around the toters?  How could the designs be transferred to the toters?  Purchase of an art projector solved that problem - and this projector is now available for community use.  What kind of paint will stick to the toters, which are designed to resist grafiti? After numerous tests and discussions, the students finally got to work.

During spring semester, Rorabacher worked on her own toter in the high school art room for 3-4 hours, two days a week.  “It was important to be there with the students, sharing the process of art, of creativity. Beyond asking one another for advice, celebrating one another’s progress, and simply being a listening adult, it was important to model putting in the time needed to complete a project.”  

Rorabacher added,  “I hope this is only the beginning of my being involved with the high school. There is so much positive energy and willingness to take action. And I hope town officials and business owners will seek out public art projects that involve students of all ages.  Think of how delightful it would be to have school art throughout Greenfield!”

“This project was AWESOME!” said Janine Greaves, Recycling Coordinator for the Greenfield Department of Public Works. “The toter with mermaids on it is going to be at the Green River Swimming Area, and the one with sunflowers on it will be at the Town Hall. Others will be placed at strategic places around town, so please look for them, and honor the students by pitching in your bottles and cans!”