News of climate change and plastic in oceans can lead to considerable levels of overwhelm, yet small actions can contribute to big change; and it doesn’t all have to be heavy. In fact, one local organization is addressing waste and recycling with ample amounts of creative fun.

Celebrating Earth Month and innovative functional art for its ninth year, the Sonoma Community Center presents its annual Trashion Fashion Week from April 4 through April 12. The Center’s Creative Program Manager and head of the Cyber Arts Department, Eric Jackson, calls the event a week of creative waste management. Jackson is the self-proclaimed mastermind of this “crazy, wonderful week.”

“It’s a call to action to acknowledge the fact that there is a waste problem,” said Jackson. “But we can be creative about it. We can celebrate our creativity and how we upcycle and recycle and reinvest.”

The week of celebrating creative reuse includes classes, exhibits and a Trashion Fashion Runway Show.

Jackson includes many facets of waste reduction in this year’s program, from a culinary class focusing on how to use leftovers, to an encaustic collage class and a free “Trash Art for the Garden” event, hosted by Sonoma County Master Gardeners. The weeklong program also includes an exhibit featuring Barbie dolls that have been rescued from an eternity in landfills and transformed into works of art.

“We’re saving Barbie from landfills because the dolls do not decompose at all,” said Jackson. “And you know what? We can actually turn her into new works of art, to reclaim and reinvent her.”

Jackson says that instead of commissioning mainstream artists to participate, the Trashion Fashion Runway Show, for example, draws from talented community members and literally shines the spotlight on them as they strut the catwalk in upcycled attire.

“These are students in middle school, these are mothers, these are students at the community center, who decided to create something and make it shine,” said Jackson. “What an awesome opportunity [for community members] to say ‘I have a piece of work that’s being showcased in an art gallery right now’.”

The Sonoma Community Center works closely with Mentoring Alliance, educating students about waste management and assisting them in creating Trashion outfits for the runway.

For former participant M. Spencer Morton, Trashion Week had a long-lasting impact. Morton first participated in 2013 at the age of 18 as a high school student with first-place winner, Diana Velika.

Morton later wore the trash-bag gown to her senior prom. She competed with her own designs in 2015 during her second year at Santa Rosa Junior College. She went on to study Fashion Art Direction and International Fashion Promotion in Manchester, England, and says her experience with Trashion Week was spectacular.

“It was so fun to dream up ideas and materials and make them all come to life,” said Morton, via email from London. “I recommend any fashion or theater student give it a go, it’s so worth it.”

In addition to the numerous human goings on, Trashion Week also celebrates canines by partnering with Pets Lifeline for “Dogs on the Catwalk.” This particular event is free to attend and pet owners can pay a fee ($25 before April 5; and $40 for late and day-of registration) to participate. Jackson says that “Dogs on the Catwalk” is not only an entertaining event to experience, but there are also opportunities for pet adoption.


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