Filed under: Photos, Social Observation | Tags: creative recycling, decorating public space, donating money, fairy wings, finding a use for things, helping others, keeping things fresh, non profits, philanthropy, promotional materials, public art, randomness, the public environment, unexpected elements
I’ve donated money over the years to several non-profit organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, Co-op America (now called “Green America”), FINCA, and many others. I feel very strongly about using the privilege I have been gifted with to try and improve our social and physical environment, and to aid those in significantly worse circumstances than I. While things may often seem bad for us middle-class types, various elements of our lives which we take for granted are still total luxury to a massive amount of people around the world. Thus, I don’t mind sacrificing a tiny amount of my own luxury to send a few dollars to serve the greater good. However, that is not the point of this post.
If you donate without requesting that the organization not share your information, many will give your name and address to a million other non-profits who then send you their own solicitations, describing what they’re all about and asking for donations. I have never minded this for the most part, because I like to know what kind of conscientious and helpful action is taking place about this or that issue.
Much of the time unique promotional materials are included, such as greeting cards, dream-catchers, pins, stickers, etc. Often there are photographs, with a little story on the back about the situation relating to what’s shown on the front. I’ve usually kept those, but without much purpose. Recently I thought of the best use for them–the decoration of public space.
Every once in a while I take a staple gun and walk around my area stapling them in visible places on trees or telephone poles. Sometimes I like to staple them to the very edge of a tree, so they will stick out and people on either side can see either the photo or the story. I figure they will garner at least a little attention from random pedestrians before being ripped down by apathetic kids (since there are multiple schools in the vicinity, there are lots of kids around all the time) or unimaginative adults. Hopefully some people will stop and really look at them, read what they’re about, and ideally even devote a little time into researching and possibly helping. That’s the kind of person I am, at least–I’m always interested in random things I see everywhere and I like to look into them more. I only hope that others share that sort of openness.
Decorating public space is also a great idea for any sort of object that might otherwise be thrown away for want of practical use. Sometimes things aren’t appropriate for donating to a thrift store and have limited appeal for giving to someone you know. In these instances, it is fun to find a spot to install such an object where it can provide a bit of unusual and interesting augmentation to the public environment. I think it’s healthy for there to be unexpected elements in normally boring and predictable spaces, and the object may even find a new home in such a way.
A while back my girlfriend constructed some wearable fairy wings for a performance she participated in at the Hive Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. Recently they’ve been sitting around in limbo, too neat to throw away but not exactly desired anymore, by us or anyone. I suggested that we tie them to a fence or something, and we went out to find a spot. We spotted a suitable tree, and she climbed up and tied them around a branch–a strange little surprise for anybody observant enough to look up into the center of the tree.
Now go and leave some of your unused stuff somewhere in public!
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