TRASHformation is an interactive, improvisational art experience that turns community-generated waste  into a sustainably and collaboratively built art piece.

photo by Monching Flores

TRASHformation aims to raise awareness about consumption and waste production while highlighting participant-driven community issues and encouraging participants to explore their own creative capabilities as artists. Our goal is to change the way participants think about their garbage, making it clear that trash can be transformed into treasure. The program also allows participants to explore and express themes affecting their local community, and provides a platform for discussing and tackling them on a grassroots level. TRASHformation teaches participants fundamental art, construction and sustainable building skills, and transforms solitary bystanders into a bonded and empowered community of “can do” activists, enthusiastically collaborating on a common goal.

Below are videos, photo galleries and descriptions of recent TRASHformation implementations.

TRASHformation (Presentation / Installation) at D3 Lab, Nightingale Middle School

TRASHformation (The Build) at D3 Lab, Nightingale Middle School

Several students from Nightingale MS expressed an interest in engaging their peers in sustainability initiatives on campus, and so RuckusRoots guided them in creating a sculpture made from recycled lunch materials collected on school grounds. The students planned, designed and built the piece with help from RuckusRoots staff, and then presented what they learned and why they built the piece to their peers. The bird sculpture was installed in the lunch area of campus, and students implemented a new recycling program as a result. Check out our blogs to learn more.

TRASHformation at Academia Avance Middle School, Highland Park, Los Angeles


RuckusRoots and artist mentor Rebekah Waites teamed up with 127 middle school students from Academia Avance in Highland Park, CA to create an interactive sculpture made from recycled materials. This TRASHformation program was the only arts education the students received all semester. At the beginning of the program, we asked participants to come up with ideas for an art piece that would positively affect their community. The winning idea, by 11-year-old Brisa Cabrera Diaz, is entitled “Your Hug,” and is an 11-foot tall sculpture of a teddy bear that absorbs feelings. As Diaz wrote in her proposal, “My art piece is of emotion. When you’re sad you hug it and when you’re mad you can talk to it about your madness. Express your feelings to it.” When participants speak (or laugh or sing) into a nearby microphone, the bear lights up in response. Your Hug showed at the Northeast LA Art Walk in May 2014.


TRASHformation at Legacy LA

RuckusRoots is partnered with Legacy LA to create a TRASHformation sculpture with at-risk youth from the project housing community of Ramona Gardens in east LA. Legacy LA’s mission is to make positive interventions in the lives of young people by offering alternatives to gangs and violence. This TRASHformation is a collaborative effort that reflects issues surrounding police-installed surveillance cameras in Ramona Gardens. Our piece explores themes of perspective: what the cameras see and what they don’t, the true Ramona Gardens (both positive and negative aspects) as seen through the eyes of our participants. Check out our latest blogs for details about this project.

TRASHformation at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh

This program earned the UWO “innovation points,” helping it receive a “Gold” rating in AASHE’s STARS (Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System). Only 25 schools in the United States have achieved this prestigious standing!

See TRASHformation in action!

Video courtesy of Jon Patty

For Universities

RuckusRoots’ program TRASHformation earned the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh “innovation points,” which was a key to UWO receiving a “Gold” rating in AASHE’s STARS (Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System). Only 25 schools in the United States have achieved this prestigious rating! Here’s some official info.

Implementing a RuckusRoots program at your school will not only help your institution genuinely improve its sustainability practices and increase student engagement in eco issues, but will also ensure you get the credibility you deserve for leading the charge towards a healthy future for our planet.


UWO Chancellor gives his Earth Day address from a stage RuckusRoots and UWO students constructed out of old computer parts that would have otherwise been thrown away. Photo by Jaslyn Gilbert

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