Siskiyou County artists are turning old newspaper boxes into art

Local artists in Siskiyou County looking for an extra paintbrush or tube of glitter might consider pulling the handle of a repurposed newspaper vending machine — no coins required.

A county-wide public art initiative has turned old newspaper boxes into community cubes, storing art objects that are accessible free of charge to anyone passing by.

The project is reminiscent of the tiny “Little Free Libraries” that are common in neighborhoods across the country, where residents set up small book displays on the side of the street, offering books to the community for free.

Repurposed newspaper vending machines are also sourced from local artists and decorated with often whimsical new paints, showcasing the graphic potential of everyday objects.

“One of the goals of the project was to make sure there was at least one piece of public art in as many communities as possible, especially the smaller communities outside of the I-5 corridor,” said Patricia Lord, executive director of the Siskiyou County Arts Council , who leads the project, officially known as Art DROP.

There are now 10 of the drop boxes located throughout the county. Nine are recycled newspaper boxes and one is a mini-fridge.

“I was exploring the relationship between art and community and how the two are intertwined,” explained Trinity Holsworth, program manager for the Siskiyou County Arts Council and one of the artists on the project. The box is called “Community Creativity” and features images of local landmarks like Mount Shasta. The box is located outside the Hornbrook Community Center in Hornbrook.

“It’s very fitting that it’s located outside the center of community building efforts in the area,” said Holsworth, a professional artist for the past 16 years who works primarily in plein air paintings and oil and charcoal portraits.

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About half a dozen students at Yreka High School brainstormed an idea about the changing seasons for their box, explained Nathan Chismar, a high school art teacher and faculty adviser. Titled The Yellow Brick Road and staged outside the Avery Theater in the center of Etna, the play looks like a mash-up of Impressionism—think the work of Georges Seurat and Picasso.

“Since many of my students are also in drama club, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was hot on their minds for some reason,” Chismar explained. “This created a unity between the four sides of the box. They used the road to connect all the countries, each with a different season, together.

The box itself is filled with supplies like pencils, crayons, paper, as well as information about Avery Memorial Theatre, a non-profit theater and community space in Etna.

Baruch Inbar, a Mount Shasta artist, designed his Gazelle Art Drop Station as the kind of friendly robot you might encounter in a children’s book. The piece is known as “Art Bot”.

“I hope my pieces will inspire artists of all ages, young and old, to create art by offering them the opportunity to receive free art supplies through the art boxes,” said Inbar, who works in art education with children and teenagers and is also a commercial artist who designs illustrations for children’s books.

The Art Drop station project is also a commentary on the idea of ​​reusing objects that have faded into irrelevance. So newspaper vending machines—once ubiquitous on street corners and outside shopping malls—are now as common as phone booths.

A major program of the Siskiyou County Arts Council is the SCRAPS Art Cart, a program that takes discarded materials and turns them into art projects.

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“It encourages resourcefulness in all contexts of the word, including recycling, but also looking at old objects in new and creative ways,” Lord said.

All items are free, Holsworth said. “I’ve been running this program for several years and this concept has found its way into many of my art projects.”

The remodeled media boxes, which were purchased at auction and formerly distributed copies of the Siskiyou Daily News, are also a reminder of the changing landscape of local news in recent years, from print to digital distribution.

Chismar, the art teacher, said his students were only vaguely familiar with newspaper boxes, perhaps having seen them in the movies.

“In an age where you can pay with an invisible wallet on your phone, it was fun to think about,” Chismar added. “The youth these days surprises me a lot. I think they won’t have a clue about anything and of course they know all about it or have read about it or seen something about it. The other thing is that often times they think vintage items are interesting or cool.”

Skip Descant is a freelance journalist. He has written for newspapers in California, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. He lives in downtown Yreka. he can be reached at [email protected]

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