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Darling Upcycle! Art Fest returns

By Staff | Apr 1, 2015

Andrew Corke introduced his “sculptire” art at last year’s Upcycle! event. The Sanibel native uses cork and bicycle tires to fashion wildlife artwork. His presentations bowled over visitors. A Fort Myers iron sculptor earned the top award last year, but the buzz was on the realism of Corke’s work, that something as sleepy as a bicycle tire could generate such creativity. CRAIG GARRETT

The second Upcycle! Art Fest returns April 1-2 at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. More than 20 artists will display and sell their works of repurposed and re-imagined materials at the refuge Visitor & Education Center in Sanibel.

The event in its first season was a big success, and featured creative artwork fashioned from tires, metals, fabric, old records, feathers, plastic, just about any castoff most of us store in closets or toss into the scrap bin. And more often, unfortunately, into landfills.

This year’s event will include silent auctions, a garbage band and other goodies to bring awareness to recycling and environmentalism. As importantly, it introduces visitors to the amazing creativeness of southwest Florida artists. Some of the works will be donated to benefit the Ding.

“This year, we expand Upcycle! to two days. We will also be holding a silent auction on a number of pieces from four of our artists,” said Upcycle! committee chair Barb Rogers said. “We are thrilled by the variety of art we are seeing. To further tempt visitors, we have created a Gallery of Works on our Upcycle! web page.”

The event this year features local scouts performing with their “garbage band” instruments made from recycled materials. Junior Girl Scout Troop No. 673, fourth- and fifth-graders from south Fort Myers, will perform with guitars and a cello made of Girl Scout cookie boxes and shakers out of plastic bottles.

“We are so excited to hear the girls play and sing their songs,” Barb Rogers said. “What a great, fun addition this will be to the spirit of Upcycle!”

Andrew Corke introduced his “sculptire” art at last year’s Upcycle! event. The Sanibel native uses cork and bicycle tires to fashion wildlife artwork. His presentations bowled over visitors. A Fort Myers iron sculptor earned the top award last year, but the buzz was on the realism of Corke’s work, that something as sleepy as a bicycle tire could generate such creativity.

Corke in his initial work had tried car tires. But metal cords in the rubber made the work difficult, he said. So he approached island merchant Billy Kirkland, asking for tire castoffs from Kirkland’s bike rental shops. An osprey of startling realism that Corke fashioned almost entirely of bike tires remains perched at the Refuge visitor center. He used recycled acrylic for the bird’s beak, talons and eyes.

“I can find the right part of a tire for just about any sculpture,” Corke said. “I will definitely keep doing this. I feel like I’ve discovered something new.”

The event this year also provides contributed artwork to benefit the Ding. Andrew Corke’s contribution is a chameleon portrait titled “Concealed” and valued at $1,000. He used recycled wine corks and bicycle tires in its creation. Three others will donate artwork, which includes jewelry and purses to palm frond art and unusual lamps made out of plumbing and other fixtures.

The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Silent auction bidding opens to the public at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1. Other activities will include artist exhibits, an art sale, make-and-take crafts like sock puppets, environmental exhibitors, and film showings.

Admission to the two-day event, hosted by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS), is free of charge. Art sales and auction proceeds benefit wildlife and conservation education at J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

“We are once again planning an educational and entertaining event that will directly benefit wildlife and its habitat at ‘Ding’ Darling,” said Birgie Miller, DDWS executive director. “Besides demonstrating the importance of recycling and conservation, it will offer visitors opportunities to purchase one-of-a-kind pieces and even try their hand at it.”

To learn more about Upcycle! and view work to be featured in this year’s festival, please visit www.UpcycleArtFest.org.