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Art @ The Dump Kicks Off Cornwall's Social Season

By Lisa Green

To those who are considering moving to the Rural Intelligence area, be advised that "town dump" is not a place to be avoided. In many towns, it's where you meet your neighbors, get the gossip and, on occasion, pick up some one-of-a-kind artwork.

In fact, the town dump (more formally known as the transfer station) in Cornwall, Conn. is the site of "the beginning of the social season of Cornwall," says Gail Jacobson, referring to the town's annual Art @ The Dump event, which, this year happened April 21-22. It's an art "show" sponsored by the Cornwall Association that the whole town gets behind, even those who insist "I'm not really an artist." There are no rules or regulations. The only caveat: your work has to be made from recycled items.

In the past, people have created (and sold) a bubble wrap alligator, a Tyvek wedding dress and garden art made from metal castoffs.

"We've done themes like a trash-en show, a shoe re-do and recycled instruments," Jacobson says. "One year, the historical society donated old mannequins and people made lamps out of them." In recent years, a fair amount of entries have come from young men who are welding garden ornaments. This year's jumpstart is "Books Reimagined," but that's only a suggestion.

Art @ the Dump is open to anyone from anywhere — information and entry forms are available on the website. Artists get there early on Saturday and hang or otherwise display the work and set their own prices.

Now in its 18th year, Art @ The Dump is a fundraiser for the art department of the Cornwall Consolidated School. Over the years, the event has funded digital cameras, artist-in-residence programs and supplies.

"It was my idea," admits Jacobson, an artist herself, whose exhibit "All Over the Map" is currently on display at Souterrain Gallery. "Before I moved to Cornwall, I was president of the Ridgefield, Conn. Guild of Artists. A man called Art Green ran the dump. I thought, hmm, 'Art, at the dump.'" When I saw that in Cornwall the dump was kind of a social scene, I thought of an art show, and the recycling officer offered to help."

Earth Day was only six days away, so the event was put together in a hurry without standard art show rules and regulations. "We had so much fun and it worked great without any rules, so we've continued that way," she says.

Cornwall's transfer station is on Route 4, and, says Jacobson, it's a little hard to find, so balloons and old refrigerator doors will be signs directing trash takers and art buyers to the site. The actual "show" is sited just opposite the transfer station, where a sand shed, cleaned up by the road crew, serves as a gallery.
Each year, there's a People's Choice award. The good news, says Jacobson, is whoever wins first prize is, well, the winner. The bad news? The winner has to make three prizes for the next year. Recycled, of course.