‘Art of Recycling’ competition features piranha plants, poultry and plenty more

The beauty of recycling takes on a whole new meaning with an annual University exhibit.

<p>Stephanie Finch's phoenix made of all recycled materials, which won the grand prize, is displayed at the Art of Recycling Exhibition on Wednesday, April 11 at Coffman Union. The grand prize winner received a Tablet Pro.</p>

Ellen Schmidt

Stephanie Finch's phoenix made of all recycled materials, which won the grand prize, is displayed at the Art of Recycling Exhibition on Wednesday, April 11 at Coffman Union. The grand prize winner received a Tablet Pro.

Maraya King

Yesterday, Coffman Great Hall was flooded with recycled materials come to life, a live band and free food for the annual Art of Recycling competition. 

The contest, hosted by the Student Unions and Activities and sponsored by Coca-Cola, required art pieces made entirely from recycled Coke materials. Prizes include Gopher Gold gift cards from $50 to $500, and the grand prize, a Tablet Pro with pencil and keyboard. 

Charlotte Elo, a member of the SUA’s Arts & Culture committee and one of this year’s judges, said the entrants are evaluated based on three principles: creativity, construction and their use of recycled Coca-Cola materials. 

Megan Blooflat, a contestant majoring in architecture, said she spent over 14 hours on her Super Mario-themed piranha plant. 

“I told my parents to stop drinking Mountain Dew and start drinking Sprite,” Blooflat said with a chuckle. “My dad gave up after three weeks.”

Competitors Nels Shafer and Jinglun Li found alternative ways to gather supplies.

The pair went through recycling bins on campus to find cans of the exact shades they needed for their suspended, geometric “Elefante,” Shafer said.  

Covered in Band-Aids, they admitted shaping and hot-gluing the aluminum was not only painstaking, but at times painful.

Jennifer Lachapelle, a recent transfer student, held her own at the competition despite not being in the College of Design like the majority of the participants. 

Lachapelle, an applied economics major, said she heard of the event before she came to the University of Minnesota.

“I love this type of stuff, I knew I was going to go hard on this project,” she said. 

She worked for two months on her tree, or “giant broccoli,” as she said, which stands almost five feet tall, adorned with a birdhouse and bushels of “leaves.”

Also an employee of Comstock residence hall, Lachapelle said she went “racooning” to find her cans around the dorm.

The grand prize winners of the last two years each made a dress out of recycled materials, an idea that seems to be outdated at this year’s show.

Heidi Woelfle, graduate of the Design school, won in 2016 for her recycled dress, which she says took her only three hours.

Woelfle currently manages the Wearable Technology Lab in the College of Design. “We integrate technology into clothing-based garments,” she said. 

Erin Coyer, a senior studying biomedical engineering, won the grand prize last year for her dress, inspired by Woelfle’s. 

“I have actually made a lot of dresses out of recycled products before; it’s an interesting hobby of mine,” Coyer said. 

Tricia Schweitzer, an adviser for SUA, said this is one of the biggest art events for spring semester. 

With Spring Jam and finals coming up, this is an excellent way for the students to give back and showcase their talents, she said.