A small group of eager students gathered on the lawn at 23 North Street—a branch of the Genesee Valley Cooperative —on Friday Sept. 25. Their mission was simple: take a bunch of excess cardboard and turn it into art.
Armed with a myriad of paint and supplies—both of which were purchased through a grant to the co-op and donated by participants in the event—the group of about 15 students turned the cardboard into beautiful works of art. The artwork now hangs in the co-op’s kitchen.
Pieces varied from realistic portrayals of strawberries and grapefruit slices to multi-colored mountainsides to slightly gruesome re-imaginings of human faces. For my part, I was quite proud to produce a purple pepper and a Bob Ross-style landscape painting. Some of the pieces were left behind to decorate the co-op’s walls while others were taken home or given to friends.
The whole event seemed to embody the spirit of cooperative living. A group of kids gathering together to take something that would have no real value—in this case, cardboard—and then make something useful and unique out of it.
This event was the most recent in a series planned by the co-op to promote the values and ideas of cooperative living and to spread awareness for the GVC. Some future events include a community dinner on Friday Oct. 2 and a workshop on quick composting. These events have been made possible thanks to grants awarded to the co-op through the efforts of co-op members.
“I think the event was a success,” co-op member junior Emily Holdgruen said. “A lot of new faces showed up and contributed some great artwork.”
Though attendance at the event wasn’t overwhelming by any stretch, attendees certainly seemed to enjoy the opportunity to make art outdoors on such a lovely, warm fall day. People were able to stop by for only a short time if they chose—or they could linger and churn out piece after piece of art.
The overall welcoming and friendly atmosphere was nice to see in an age that can feel over-saturated with irony and cynicism. The sincerity of the event was heartwarming and probably why it felt like such a success.
Though some talk of cooperative life occurred, it never felt forced and participants expressing curiosity initiated those conversations. Answers to questions were always forthcoming and well-thought out, but they never felt like sales pitches.
“A goal of our cooperative is to engage with the community,” Holdgruen said. “We encourage people to eat dinner at our house and I think it would be nice for them to see their artwork hanging on our walls.”
There never felt to be ulterior motives of convincing people to spread the word about the co-op or of indoctrinating unsuspecting artists into the lifestyle. People simply gathered together to create art out of old cardboard—and in the age of buzz marketing, that was more refreshing than anything else.
There’s a tendency in society to gloss over the hard aspects of living a lifestyle or ideology that isn’t mainstream. For example, when some vegans discuss their diets they sometimes stry to convince you that somehow vegan cheese is as good as real cheese—even though it isn’t.
When talking with co-op members, though, I never felt like they were selling me vegan cheese. They told me and the other participants about how sometimes the chore wheel was annoying or about the difficulty of having to have the house agree on the events held within.
The day was full of great painters, but the best painters by far were the members of the co-op. They never discouraged anyone from cooperative living, but they didn’t make it seem like the simplest thing in the world. They were simply painting us the whole picture.