The South by Southwest (SXSW) Conferences and Festivals are taking place in Austin, Texas through March 17, and people interested in music, film, technology and innovation are all gathering to exchange ideas. Through a collaboration between the Glad Products Company and Keep America Beautiful, one artist is using the festival as an opportunity to create something that’s beautiful, useful and educational all at the same time.
Jason Mecier is a mixed media artist who specializes in making mosaic portraits out of unusual materials like candy, beans, yarn and even trash. In the past, he’s even asked celebrities to send him their trash so he can construct their portraits from their own waste materials.
For SXSW, Mecier is constructing a 10-foot tall mosaic map of the United States out of festival-goers’ trash. The mural is located at Glad and Keep America Beautiful’s booth in the SouthBites section of the festival, where food trucks are located.
Mecier said the U.S. map was chosen because it is easily recognizable, and collecting trash makes people think twice about throwing things away.
“I like that there’s that message about recycling, upcycling, and it’s fun for people to just look into [mosaics]. It’s kind of like those ‘I Spy’ books where you can identify all different objects. Trash comes in every color, size and shape. You wouldn’t think trash would be so colorful and pretty until you look at it in a different way,” Mecier told Earth911.
On the mural, each state collects trash of a different color to create contrast, and the background is made up of white trash like forks, spoons and plates.
“It’s organized a little bit by color, a little bit by theme. People have also been coming up and saying ‘I’m from San Francisco’ and want to glue something to where they’re from,” Mecier said. One example of “themed” trash is Starbucks cups, which Mecier has put in the state of Washington, since that is where the company originated.
Glad and Keep America Beautiful began working together 27 years ago when they first partnered for the Great American Cleanup, and they brought Mecier to SXSW to create something eye-catching that people would notice and want to talk about. The organizations want to use this opportunity to educate people about recycling and composting and show them that there are alternatives to landfills for trash. Labeled recycling and composting bins, as well as a team of people to educate festival-goers, are scattered throughout the SouthBites area. Over 2000 pounds of trash have been diverted from landfills in that one area alone.
At the end of the festival, the upcycled trash mural will be donated to Keep Austin Beautiful, and the booth materials will all be recycled or composted.
A look at the mural being constructed:
To see more of Jason Mecier’s work, including unique portraits of dozens of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Taylor Swift, Jerry Seinfeld and Kim Kardashian, visit his website.