Art from Recyclables Competition Celebrates Sustainable Initiatives on Campus 

By Kyla Guilfoil, Editor-in-Chief 

A recycled material sculpture competition took place on the quadrangle to raise awareness for sustainable practices and to celebrate Earth Day last Friday. Sara Mandelbaum, who constructed a sculpture out of recycled glass, took first place in the competition.

Overseen by Julian Silverman, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, the competition began on March 30, when the five participating students received their assigned recycled material. From there, the artists created their sculptures, which were unveiled on the quadrangle on April 22. 

The competition, made possible by a small grant from the Victory Noll Sisters, was run by Silverman and the Center for Urban Resilience and Environmental Sustainability (CURES), of which Silverman is the program director. 

Erin Clinton, Amanda Taub-Runo, Sara Mandelbaum, Wade Wiedemann and Sabrina Beharry were the student participants behind the competition’s sculptures, and each was assigned a specific type of recyclable material to use. 

Clinton, a student in the school of engineering, designed a sculpture out of plastic recycled materials. Meanwhile, Taub-Runo, also an engineering student, unveiled a sculpture made of recycled paper, and featured a small panda paper figurine. 

Wiedemann, an environmental studies major, developed a sculpture out of recycled fabrics. For education student Beharry, a sculpture made of recycled metal came to life. 

Mandelbaum, an education major who won the competition, made her sculpture out of recycled glass. The resulting piece was entitled “Fragile Beauty.”  

“At first I thought of items that people bought that are made of glass, like jars and camera lenses,” Mandelbaum told The Quadrangle. “This encouraged me to take on the challenge of taking items that would be discarded and repurpose them into something useful. This led to my concept of a vase with flowers, as this can be found at many people’s houses as a centerpiece.” 

Mandelbaum explained that she created the sculpture using a glass soda bottle, crushed glass and colored glass pieces. To give the soda bottle a unique effect, Mandelbaum used the crushed glass to layer over the bottle’s surface. Then, she glued colored glass onto sticks and twigs in order to make a varied and colorful collection of flowers. 

Mandelbaum is grateful to have won a competition that aligns so closely with an important issue. 

“I feel honored to be recognized as it shows me that my message of items that seem useless can be transformed to have a new purpose was well received,” Mandelbaum wrote to The Quadrangle. “The goal of my project was to have people be aware of the fact that everything can have beauty and value to it, and I felt that this concept was heard. Everyone in the competition today did amazing, and I’m glad that we all were able to create art to support the action of recycling.” 

Silverman explained that the competition was meant to encourage recycling and sustainable initiatives on campus, as well as embodying Lasallian principles and those in the Pope’s Laudato Si. 

Silverman said that while the college does have a recycling bin, not everything that ends up in the bins gets properly recycled. 

“We wanted to, you know, demonstrate that there was really value to those kinds of materials and that you can do not only fun things with them, but meaningful things too,” Silverman said. 

The idea for the Art from Recyclables competition originally came from Pamela Chasek’s environmental politics class in 2007. Chasek explained that she teaches this course, POSC223, each year, and part of it includes encouraging students to propose different environmental issues to tackle on campus. 

“We brainstormed ideas as a class, then I passed around a list of sub-topics and students got to choose which subtopic they worked on,” Chasek wrote to The Quadrangle. “Each group wrote up a paper that included an assessment of the situation and recommendations…The students did everything. I just guided the projects.” 

While it took a few years for the project to come to fruition, Chasek is happy to see it happening on campus. 

“I think it is important to raise awareness about how much waste we produce on campus and how we can reduce our consumption and waste production,” Chasek wrote. “Subsequent classes have also addressed this problem by way of looking at food waste and composting, move-out-of-dorm waste and how clothing and furniture could be donated or reused by future students, among other ideas.”