The art of recycling: Art students visit scrap yard for sculpture materials

A hard hat and safety vest isn’t the usual outfit for an art student at the University of Tennessee, but it was the required uniform Saturday, Jan. 21, while 10 sculpture program students dug around in Gerdau’s Knoxville scrap yard. 

The students plan to make sculptures for an April exhibit to celebrate National Recycling Month. Every year, Gerdau recycles more than 14 million metric tons of steel scrap into new steel. Most of the scrap recycled by Gerdau comes from materials no longer used by the community, such as stoves, refrigerators and old cars. The Knoxville mill recycles discarded steel into reinforcing bar, which is used to support concrete in new bridges, buildings and other structures.

The students gathered 4,800 pounds of scrap metal, free of charge, from the Lonsdale neighborhood scrap yard.

"To create something of beauty and purpose from what many would consider to be ugly waste is an exciting prospect,” Thomas Colabella, University of Tennessee Sculpture Program student, said. “I look forward to creating a work that will bring new life to these materials."

The public exhibit, “The Art of Recycling,” was held for the first time in 2015 at the Knoxville Convention Center, but the partnership between Gerdau, the University of Tennessee and Dogwoods Arts has been going on for over six years. Dogwood Arts is collective which promotes the region's art, culture and natural beauty with events like Rhythm N’ Blooms, Dogwood Arts Festival, Chalk Walk and the Knoxville Film Festival. 

This year, “The Art of Recycling” will be Thursday, April 6, to Wednesday, April, 19, at the Knoxville Convention Center. For the first time, there will be a best in show winner. 

Check back for photo updates in March as the students work to complete their sculptures. 

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