NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Ask artist Benjamin Bullins what's the coolest thing he's ever found in the trash, and he'll say it's a trick question because everything he digs up when dumpster diving is unique; but one particular find comes to mind.
"After Hurricane Katrina, I was on a photo assignment in the 9th Ward and in front of Fats Domino's house at Caffin Avenue and Marais Street there were piles of garbage," Bullins said. "I found five original Billboard Chart awards from the 1950s. A nonprofit group that was going house to house clearing out contents must have trashed them by mistake."
Bullins rescued the priceless memorabilia, was able to return them to the music legend, and felt the discovery changed his life.
"Hurricane Katrina was the catalyst that led me from being a commercial photographer to pursuing art full time," the Harvey, Louisiana mixed media artist said. "I was finding all kinds of stuff and started making art recycling trash."
Bullins' latest commission for Covington nonprofit Northshore Community Foundation, a 12-foot in diameter steel umbrella sculpture with large philanthropic vocabulary cut out of it, will be featured at the 63rd annual New Orleans Home & Garden Show, from Friday, March 9, through Sunday, March 11, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It's the largest consumer home show in the southeastern United States that brings together a variety of home-related services and products under one gigantic roof, or dome, with everything needed for home and outdoor living spaces.
Bullins' businesses, The Benjamin Collection and Dumpster Dive workshops and team building events, showcase an affinity for transforming discarded odds and ends into commercial, residential and fine art and furniture. Both businesses are also a family affair. Bullins and his wife Hannah, and their kids Isabelle, 10, and Noah, 7, will bring a large dumpster filled with recyclable materials and salvaged wood to the Home & Garden Show and let people jump in and find something they can artistically repurpose and bring home.
Through a series of fun workshops, including freestyle dumpster dives, a dumpster dive "flip flop switch" where those working on artwork will rotate around the table and find themselves with another person's artwork that they must finish, a dumpster dive birthday party and art competitions with themed projects that are judged and showcased in an art collection display, participants will never look at litter, debris or funky fragments the same way again.
"My Dumpster Dive business is about inspiring people to be creative," Bullins said. "DIY is huge, and we'll have all kinds of hands-on activities to help people figure out what they can create from waste."
Bullins' reverence for refuse started at an early age, watching his Mom go to antique stores and garage sales and pluck treasures from other people's trash. "When I was a boy, I remember being embarrassed, but now I think it's cool," he said.
His kids do, too. They've been saving empty water bottles and cardboard paper towel and toilet paper rolls because on Saturday, March 10, they'll have their own table, called Dumpster Dive, Jr., at the Home & Garden Show. They'll help other kids their age make one of a kind pieces of art from household scraps, rubbish, junk and a little imagination.
When Bullins is scavenging and salvaging out in the field, he always carries postcards of his work with him, in case someone approaches and asks what he's doing. "I introduce myself and show them the work I've done," he said. "They get really excited by and interested in what I do, and I've become a sort of community recycling resource. Lots of people come to me and drop off things in front of my shop."
"My whole career is based on making money out of recycled materials," Bullins said. "I built a whole art business doing it, and it can be profitable but it takes a lot of work. Some think I have no overhead since I find my materials in the garbage, but I still run my business like any other business. The found object is just the medium you're working with. I still need my supplies, tools, equipment, my workspace and insurance. You also need the skill set, and an eye for it."
Bullins said when he leads others to rummage through dross and dregs it's like starting a fire. "Their enthusiasm starts small and builds up when they see what's possible when they repurpose," he said. "I don't teach people how to create art. I help them find their creativity."
Find more information about the 63rd annual New Orleans Home & Garden Show at https://neworleanshomeshows.com/
Information from: BIZ New Orleans, http://www.bizneworleans.com/
Posted on Fri, March 9, 2018
by By LESLIE T. SNADOWSKY, Biz New Orleans