Recycled treasures offer a new type of art
By: Amanda Strouse
Pennell owns and runs the Rare Hare Studio on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights, providing art classes to children and adults. But the Rare Hare isn’t your average arts and crafts workroom. Pennell is an art teacher who brings recycling to a whole new level.
The Rare Hare offers classes that turn recycled everyday items into pieces of art. Pennell hopes to spread awareness of “reclaimed art” – the art of taking used objects and giving them a new use.
“Your vision is turned on in a new way,” Pennell said. “What was your boring recycling bin becomes your box full of treasures.”
Pennell opened the Rare Hare Studio in February 2008, after spending seven years living in San Francisco. She became inspired by the liberal city’s recycling arts programs. A San Diego native, she brought San Francisco’s ecologically-friendly mindset back home with her.
“There are recycling arts programs in every major city in the U.S. except for San Diego, so I want to pioneer recycling arts programs in San Diego,” Pennell said.
Her studio, modestly cluttered with chairs, projects, scraps and used knickknacks, looks like a living room out of an “I Spy” book. With the stacks of random items and Pennell’s persistent push for creativity, the students have no problems producing art.
Through a recycled art project called F.A.I.R. (fostering artistic ingenuity with recycling), her students’ reclaimed art pieces have been displayed in local festivals and art walks. On Sept. 11, children’s’ mini-rooms (miniature versions of rooms decorated inside of shoe boxes) were displayed at the Kensington Walkabout. At last weekend’s ArtWalk on the Bay, children were able to participate in making reclaimed art at Erin’s booth.
Next weekend at the Adams Avenue Street Fair, businesses will be open for viewing and Pennell won’t miss this opportunity to draw more clientele. She said she will have her store open for viewing, a list of her fall classes so people can sign up and a small trunk show, which will have art and unique objects for sale.
Along with the F.A.I.R. program, the studio holds art camps during school breaks, teacher workshops and traditional art classes, such as watercolor painting, drawing and photography. The studio can also be reserved for birthday parties or get-togethers.
Noreen Clindinning of Clairemont has been taking classes at the studio with her 11-year-old daughter since it opened. She said she loves being at the studio because of its relaxing, calming and soothing atmosphere.
“It’s just a place you can go where you can tune out everything else in your life and work on something specific and really let your creative side come out,” Clindinning said. “[Pennell] has so much stuff and it’s so well organized and laid out – I feel like all the tedious prep work is done for me.”
Pennell said that despite these trying times for many small businesses, she has abundant business.
“With so many art programs being cut from schools, parents are looking for alternative sources of enrichment for their children,” she said. Pennell feels that art is as imperative to a child’s education as language arts and history. “I think taking art out of children’s lives in school is a great disservice to them and society,” she said.
Clindinning said she felt it was important to put her daughter in art classes. “It’s more than doing the projects – [Pennell is] really teaching,” she said. “And she’s giving [the children] a lot of background, and talking about professional artists and the history of art.”
To Pennell, art is more than her job – it’s a way of life.
“Kids making that connection between the recycled forms and art is only going to help them, our community, our environment and our world in the future,” Pennell said.
With her adult art classes, she emphasizes the need for people of all ages to use their imaginations. “Grown-ups need a chance to explore their creative process,” she said. “Adults don’t always give themselves permission to engage in something fun and creative.”
The Rare Hare financially supported by donations of money and used goods. Pennell’s studio is densely packed, floor to ceiling, with objects that would normally go into the trash or recycling cans. She said every home and business has clean, reusable scraps that can be donated. “I’m clearing the clutter from everyone’s lives and turning it into art,” she said.
Amid Pennell’s busy schedule with the Rare Hare, she has bigger plans. She said her goal is to obtain non-profit status and get grants so she can open a F.A.I.R. storefront, where teachers, families and artists can donate items or buy items for low prices.
-You can call or e-mail Erin Pennell to donate clean, used scraps and objects. For more information about the studio, go to: www.Rareharestudio.com.
Amanda Strouse is a freelance journalist who lives in San Diego.