Art for Dumpsters

Dallas artists dress up dumpsters for offbeat competition

Dallas artists dress up dumpsters for offbeat competition

Dumpster art
Dallas artists will get an unusual new canvas. Photo courtesy of Diane Kurzyna aka Ruby Reusable

A new program by the city of Dallas' Sanitation Services department will support local artists in a most unusual way. Called Art for Dumpsters, it will award five artists with commissions to be displayed on city recycling containers.

According to Murray Myers, who oversees the city's "zero waste" department, Art for Dumpsters will take mundane recycle containers and transform them into a canvas. Sporting their beautiful new art, the dumpsters will make their surrounding neighborhoods more aware of recycling and engage people in recycling at the site. The project also allows artists to showcase their work on an unusual canvas with lots of visibility.

The goal is to provide a creative message about recycling and the environment, and to draw attention to the city's recycling drop-off sites. The city currently has more than 140 recycling drop-off sites.

"We had seen this done in other cities," Myers says. "Trash and recycling containers are frequently hidden in alleys, behind screens, or in basements of buildings. They're painted to blend in so they don't attract attention. But this shines a light on the message of environmental stewardship."

They worked with the Deep Ellum Community Association (DECA) to make it part of the Deep Ellum Arts Festival, a 3-day festival that takes place April 1-3.

"DECA helped us establish the criteria, that it be good art that reflects recycling, environmentalism, and Dallas," Myers says. "And they reinforced the necessity of a prize, since that increases participation."

The prizes are not shabby. Five finalists will get $2,250, plus $250 for supplies. The finalists will paint the dumpsters at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival for all to see on April 2, from 7 am to 5 pm. One grand prize "best in show" artist will win an additional $1,500.

The five winning dumpsters will go to Earth Day Texas on April 22, where they'll be on display. By May, the winners will be dispersed throughout the city. The Best in Show award will be displayed as a wrap on a City of Dallas collections truck.

"We'll also put the winning artwork on wraps and cover an additional 10 dumpsters," Myers says.

The locations will be spread throughout the city, but will most likely include Tietze Park, the most popular recycling center in the city.

Artists can be individuals or teams of up to five people. "We're hoping that we might get some student groups from DISD to participate," Myers says. Hmm, that cuts down significantly on the prize money, though. Dilemma.

"This is a new process for us and we're trying to get as many artists to participate as possible," Myers says.

The deadline for submissions is March 18. Information on the contest can be found on The entry must be something that the artist can recreate on a dumpster, and the artist must be available to do that on April 2.

From there, it's just a few short steps to dumpster fame and fortune.