Scrap it out

By Josh Garvey

Artists do battle with salvage in Old Town sculpture competition

The pile of metal was more than 25 feet across and roughly shin deep, a large circle of scrap bordered by heavy construction equipment on one side and large trash bins on the other. Yellow tape blocked off the space between the two borders, separating the pile from taller assortments of scrap in the huge yard. A pile of old bikes in various stages of disassembly littered one corner, tangles of wire were strewn around and parts of old refrigerators dotted the landscape.

Around the pile, more than 20 human scavengers mulled around, grabbing up pieces and putting them in containers. Tom Sheerin wore a top hat, carried a cane and pulled an old Radio Flyer wagon around the pile, as he deposited the pieces he wanted and dragged the wagon to the next section of scrap to be examined.

The foragers were artists in search of materials for their entries in the first Old Town Scrapfest, an art competition to benefit the Old Town Commercial Association. Teams were given an hour to gather up to 500 pounds of scrap found in a section of Friedland Industries (one of the event sponsors) on June 20. Access to Friedland’s came with some special rules, such as not climbing on the dangerous heaps and wearing safety goggles.

Teams have until Friday, June 25, to finish their pieces, which will be displayed at this weekend’s festivals of the Moon and Sun and judged and put up for silent auction Saturday at Festival of the Sun.

The idea for Scrapfest came from a combination of life experience and liberal borrowing from a television show. David Such, owner of Such Video Inc. and a member of the Old Town Commercial Association, has been fascinated by the possibilities of Friedland’s for as long as he’s lived in Lansing. “I have two older brothers who are artists, and when I lived on a farm with them, they used to make sculptures from scrap,” Such said. “When I moved here from Okemos, one of the first things I noticed was Friedland Scrap Yard over on Center Street. It intrigued me. It was like a thing of beauty to me.”

The inspiration for the competitive structure came from “Junkyard Wars,” a TV show with a similar, huntingthrough-a-scrap yard premise. After a quick approval from Friedland’s owners, Such and others began organizing the competition and accepting applications for teams.

Andrew Sandstedt and Jay Belous were the representatives at the yard from furniture design company Against the Grain. Since Against the Grain works with reclaimed and re-purposed materials, the competition is similar to their day jobs, except that Sandstedt and Belous don’t usually work in metals. The team had a loose plan going into the competition, but Sandstedt said the ability to adapt was what was most important. “You have to think big picture,” Sandstedt said. “We know design-wise what we need for our piece.”

Belous said the team was planning to make a functional table set, with hopes of providing something different than what he expected from the competition. “We wanted to do something that wasn’t just another gear sculpture, which I’m sure you’ll see a lot of,” Belous said. “We wanted to emphasize something that had some meaning and that incorporated community and family.”

Old Town Scrapfest

on display during the festivals of the Sun and Moon, June 26 & 27
in Lansing’s Old Town Auction on June 27, ending at 5 p.m.