Artist has an indispensable enthusiasm
An ecology-minded teacher runs a nonprofit center to show others the joys of recycling
By Zan Dubin Scott
September 8, 2005
XOSUE MENESES launched his Art of Recycling Junk workshop with a little skit. First, he laid out some “articles of daily consumption,” a bottle of water, a detergent jug, that sort of thing. Then he drained the containers and tossed them into the trash, demonstrating how — in a matter of moments — something of value can become junk.
Meneses’ aim was to get his students to ask themselves: How can that brand-new stuff go from resource to scrap in the blink of an eye? And should it?
“The kids were like, that’s interesting. I never thought of that,” said Meneses, who shows attendees how to avoid fattening our landfills by turning the so-called junk we accumulate into art. He holds a weekly class, called “Reciclarte,” usually taught in Spanish and English, at Cultural Stage of Art/Foro Cultural de las Artes, a nonprofit center he opened with his wife, Claudia de la Cruz, in Santa Ana’s downtown arts district in 2000.
During a recent session, Gianmarco Otiniano, 11, finessed a puppet he’d named Roberto, mining flotsam and jetsam from overflowing boxes filled with castoffs. Students usually work on one piece for a few weeks.
“It’s a robot,” said Gianmarco, who had constructed his dapper doll’s eyes out of camera viewfinders, its body out of the innards of a VCR.
An artist and self-described anti-waste, litter-loathing recycling fanatic, Meneses runs a workshop whose mission is multi-pronged: to make youths aware of the need to protect the planet and keep our cities clean; to promote the arts as a diversion from drugs and gangs; and to nurture family togetherness. The free workshops are open to all but target low-income, at-risk youths with limited access to the arts — and parents are welcome.
Joining a large environmental organization is fine, but each of us can make a difference by doing the right thing within our own homegrown “teams,” or families, said Meneses, who encourages families to work together in his class.
“When kids see their parents practicing what they preach, it’s the best message you can send to your kids,” said the father of two.
Meneses, 37, earns his living as a graphic designer. He’s been holding the workshops since May “to give back.” He moved to the United States a decade ago from his native Mexico City, which is where he learned, largely through societal want, not to squander anything. Working as a food server and watching heaps of uneaten food get dumped also bred a distaste for waste.
He and De la Cruz, who teaches flamenco dance at the small center and performs professionally, transformed an unused basement into a den of expressivity. It’s full of mismatched furniture, much of which Meneses found on the street and artfully refurbished, and looks like a neighborhood coffeehouse, except that it also has a wooden dance floor and mirrors on one end.
YOGA, ballet and other classes are also offered at the center, where Gianmarco and his robot recently shared a folding table with his parents, who concentrated on their own puppets. The boy said he likes working alongside Mom and Dad: “They give me some ideas sometimes.”
Gluing coffee-stirrer legs on a water-bottle horse, Ines, his mother, approved of the workshop too. “I like art, I like recycling and it’s very important for family unity,” she said.
Other workshops focus on making masks, furniture and mixed-media art out of recyclables, said Meneses, who wants to find sponsors to underwrite the scissors, paints and other materials he needs for the classes. His vision includes inviting other artists to share their ideas with students as well.
“We welcome all artists to join our crusade,” he said, “so we can have a better future for our kids.”
Zan Dubin Scott can be reached at [email protected]
Where: Cultural Stage of Art/Foro Cultural de las Artes, 410-B W. 4th St., Santa Ana
When: 3 p.m. Saturdays
Info: (714) 543-0613&sbsp;