Trash art it ain't | July 25, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Cover Story - July 25, 2008

Trash art it ain't

Danville's tile enclosures are an ongoing project to enliven downtown

by Michelle Olson

Brown, wooden trash barrels in downtown Danville may someday be history. The town is continuing to spruce up the area with concrete trash enclosures featuring tiles designed by residents.

"It's a chance to get your art work out there and it will last a long time," said Alan Dye, cultural arts program coordinator for the Town of Danville, who heads the Public Tile Art Enclosure Project. "It is a source of public art and will tie residents to the downtown area."

The project started 12 years ago as an effort to replace the decaying wooden barrels with a long term, durable solution and has been growing with the downtown area ever since.

Kacie Evans, a Danville resident, participated in the project in 1996 with two classmates when she attended Athenian Middle School in Danville.

"I think the project was fun," Evans said. "Everything turned out really good."

Her tile art shows a tree mural and decorates a trash enclosure on Hartz Avenue on the southeast corner of East Linda Mesa Avenue.

Seventeen tile art receptacles currently exist among the 50 trash bins downtown; most can be seen on Hartz Avenue between Church Street and La Gonda Way; others are on Railroad Avenue near Trader Joe's.

The project will move forward in phases but in the past it sometimes has been put on hold due to lack of resources, said Dye. The current phase includes new trash enclosures on Prospect Avenue and two near the new Front Street Parking Lot.

Dye is hoping for 11 more enclosures by the end of the year. Currently he has about 15 art submissions but will need more to meet his goal because art is needed for each of the four sides of the containers.

"To some they may seem like just trash cans, but they really do perk up the downtown area," he said. "The program has always involved the participation of area residents and their contributions have been vital."

Lowell Crow, leader of the Sycamore Lawnmower Brigade and retired Danville resident, is a contributor. He submitted poster photos of the popular brigade, which takes top honors at the Fourth of July Parade each year.

"I participated because it looked like fun," Crow said. "It's a clever, unique thing for the community. It turned out like I expected and I would highly endorse it."

Danville town scenes, landscapes and historical references are the theme for submissions, and a 50- to 100-word description essay must be turned in with it.

Artists can use any medium but Dye advises people to make sure the materials they use will work with tile.

The art work is converted to six 8-by-8 inch ceramic tiles to decorate one side of a trash enclosure that will measure 16 inches horizontally and 24 inches vertically. This is equal to two tiles across and three tiles down.

"There is a broad spectrum of art already out there including geometric, floral and wet tile designs," Dye said.

People of all ages and artistic backgrounds are encouraged to enter. They may turn in as many designs as they desire. Artists can make corresponding designs to compose all four sides of an enclosure, and partners or groups can work on turning in a piece together.

In the past, elementary school students have each taken one tile and combined them to make a group of six.

Lisa Larsen, an art teacher at the Lafayette Art and Science Foundation, worked with her husband Edward Willy on an entry after spotting a call for Danville tile art in the newspaper in 1996. She was excited for the chance to do public art.

"Art is my perspective on life, it's the way I am," she said. "It's how I process what I see around me. I think the project is great. A lot of people go downtown and see your art."

Submitted work is judged by the Town of Danville staff, including Dye and an art commissioner. Originality, continuity, clarity, overall quality of the artwork, use of colors and historical significance all play a part in the choice of art work.

Chosen artists meet with Dye to start the planning process, and the Town of Danville provides the tile and glazing. After the tiles are designed they are fired in the town's kiln.

"We want people who are invested in the community - Boy Scouts, organizations, parent-child combinations," said Dye. "Then they'll have something that will be there 20 years later."

Residents are pleased with the results of the creative trash enclosures. Charlie Mcguire, a Danville resident and teacher at St. Isidore School, said he notices them when he walks down Hartz Avenue.

"They look great. Downtown keeps looking better and better," he said.

Calling all artists

What: Town of Danville Public Tile Art Enclosure Project

Who: Artists of all ages

When: No deadline - the project is ongoing

Where: Send designs to Danville Community Center c/o Tile Art Project, 420 Front St., Danville 94526

Information: Contact Alan Dye at 314-3466 or go to and search "Tile Art"


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