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Taking In the Trash

One person’s trash is another’s visionary art at At Annmarie Garden

Young members of the Environmental Justice League led by ­Commander Green take a break from their eco-­battles at ­Annmarie Gaden.

In Annmarie Garden of visionary art, odd ideas pop up like weeds, which visionary botanists tell us are misunderstood flowers. The newest sprout is artLAB, where heroes young and old turn trash into art in a new twist on recycling.
    The very creation of artLAB was an act of repurposing. The old café could be better used, Curator of Public Programs Jaimie Jeffrey decided, as an interactive teaching lab.
    The up-cycling philosophy that’s been practiced at Annmarie since its beginnings two decades ago kept construction costs minimal. Green builder Jeff Errington used only salvaged materials. Old palates provided paneling. Old tables from Calvert County schools are now art stations. Trashed end tables were sawed in two to make wooden shelves for supplies.
    “It is absolutely wonderful to work with so many people with great ideas,” says Errington, who relishes “educating the community” through his green building techniques.
    Next artLAB needed students to teach. Enter CHESPAX, the environmental education arm of Calvert public schools. Second graders, whose CHESPAX curriculum is Help Save the Earth, visited landfills, then came to artLAB to learn how to make waste useful.
    A team of heroes help spur the students’ imagination. Mild-mannered Annmarie staffers by vocation, Commander Green (Robyn Strayer), Zero Waste (Joanne Paskoff), Lady Rots A Lot (Jaimie Jeffrey) and The Wizard of Waste (Linda Crandall), keep the projects fun.
    “I built my costume from cat food bags that were green,” explains Strayer, whose alter-ego Commander Green evolved from the color of her materials.
    These recycling superheroes teach kids to reduce waste by recycling, reducing, reusing and composting. Kids join the League by making their own outfits out of waste. Then they get their hands dirty by learning four different ways to compost.
    artLAB opens to all at the Calvert County Green Expo on April 28. Bring your imagination, meet the superheroes and join in good clean fun. Thereafter, artLab will be open for classes and drop-ins.
    Like all superheroes, the Environmental Justice League needs a source of strength to carry out its mission. That’s you.
    “The biggest challenge now is that there is no money to staff the artLAB,” says director Stacey Hann-Ruff. Until more funding and materials come in, artLAB’s schedule is in flux.
    Help out by contributing clean, reusable old stuff in quantities of 15 objects and up — from worn paper money to tinsel to motors. Surplus, discontinued and scrap materials — office supplies, paper goods, packaging materials, textiles, appliances, wooden objects, plastics and more — are welcome. “Give your trash a second chance,” says Lady Rots A Lot.
    By the way, there’s now a concession stand for light refreshments.
    Learn more and find the waste wish list at