Seward painters turn Dumpsters into works of art

City beautification project takes 'trashy' turn

Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2002

In most circumstances, describing a painting as "fit for the trash" would be a major insult. But the Seward Parks and Recreation Department's 10 new works of art are exactly that.

In late November, the department commissioned Seward muralist Susan Swiderski, who, along with painting partner Gwen Pullman, painted 10 garbage Dumpsters to be placed in Waterfront Park along Resurrection Bay later this spring.

The steel Dumpsters are covered in "positive attitude" themes that display unique scenes reflecting life in Seward, including fish, a crab and an eagle landing on a post. Each Dumpster is painted on all four sides and has a positive phrase -- such as "Seize the day" -- on one side.

"They are beautifully painted," said Darrell Rogers, program aide for the Seward Parks and Recreation Department. "They did a wonderful job."

Swiderski and Pullman started painting during evenings and weekends after Thanksgiving and finished about three weeks ago. The Dumpsters were sandblasted down to bare metal, given several coats of primer paint and painted in resilient outdoor paint. Rogers hopes they will last at least six years.

"There will be some dents and stuff," Rogers said. "I think there should be a sign on them that says 'not for public use, just admire.'"

The painters were allowed to use the Alaska Railroad warehouse in Seward for their studio. Seward municipal campgrounds open April 15, so the Dumpsters won't be out on display until then.

"We'll have them on the campgrounds, so even the locals will have to come down to where the tourists are to see them," Rogers said. "I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it isn't the talk of the summer."

Some Seward residents got a sneak peek at the artistic trash cans during a celebration of the beautification project on March 12.

The project sprouted from a Nickelodeon Big Help project in 2000 where Seward children decorated a garbage Dumpster with a sea life scene. The project was such a success the Seward Parks and Recreation Department decided to continue the beautification effort on a larger scale.

"The only thing I can say is that you really can't appreciate them until you see them. They're gorgeous," Rogers said. "They're very colorful and very well done. I would invite anyone to come see them."

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