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Repurposed art program unites middle schoolers and seniors

ENCINITAS — For more than two decades artist Rodney McCoubrey has been repurposing old tire treads, bottle caps and fan blades into objet d’art that have commanded as much as $1,800. His work has been exhibited locally at the Re-Gallery in Solana Beach and Art N Soul on 101 in Encinitas as well as galleries in Northern California.

McCoubrey will be teaching teens and seniors how to become environmental folk artists like himself through the Artist Outreach Project awarded by the Picerne Foundation. The grant funds artists, 55 and older, to share their knowledge with underserved populations.

The class is a collaboration between Oakcrest Middle School and the Encinitas Senior Center.

The first session features a garden theme and begins at noon Jan. 23 in Room 140 of the Encinitas Senior Center located at 1140 Oakcrest Park Drive. It continues to March 28. The second session celebrates the ocean and will be held from April 17 to May 30.

Portrait of a horse named “Molly” that environmental folk artist Rodney McCoubrey was recently commissioned to produce. It is made with recycled plywood, steel-belted tires, nuts, bolts, washers and horse shoes. Photo by Lillian Cox

Each group meets Wednesdays and Thursdays, alternately between Oakcrest Middle School and the Encinitas Senior Center. When the art installation closes, sections will be sold to the highest bidder with profits evenly divided between the art department at Oakcrest and the senior center.

“The best way to say ‘community’ is by bringing together children and their elders,” McCoubrey explained. “I really want the kids to get their grandparents to come so that they’ll also be introduced to the senior center.”

McCoubrey is also hoping to attract the large population of retired artists around town, including former Disney cartoonists and set designers many of whom, he adds, have dropped out from the art scene.

“We have unbelievably talented seniors, and the kids are right there ready to be led,” he said. “No art experience is needed, although it is appreciated.”

McCoubrey will be soliciting input into the design as well as methods to gather recyclables. The most immediate need is for quality plywood (not particle board) as well as metal and plastic bottle caps, army toys, cigarette lighters and other nonperishable objects.

“All of the art is made with recycled materials, which makes it environmentally correct, but it really shows people what a world of art we have that we throw away,” he added.

McCoubrey was raised in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs, and says he traveled the world in the late 1960s as a surfer and production potter. He eventually became interested in airbrush art.

“In the late 1980s I was unemployed and started working with things that people threw out,” he recalled. I got hooked making things from trash and began entering environmental art shows. I won a big exhibit at the Del Mar Fair, kept practicing and thought, ‘Where can I take this?’” At that point, he began teaching workshops.

The Kenneth A. Picerne Foundation was formed in 2004 to provide financial support and leadership to develop innovative, creative, self-sustainable programs that focus on leadership, mentoring and education. In 2007, The Artist Outreach Project was created to provide accomplished senior artists over 55 years of age the opportunity to give back as well as stay engaged with their community. The Artists Outreach Project has been recognized by national organizations such as Grantmakers in Aging, Grantmakers in the Arts and the National Center for Creative Aging as a groundbreaking project.

Since its inception of this program, 15 awards have been granted to Encinitas artists who have provided 3,600 hours of service in nonprofit organizations in Encinitas; more than 2,700 in-need and/or underserved citizens in the community have been directly served by Encinitas artists. Recognizing the richness of the artistic community in Encinitas, the foundation to date has invested $177,000 in Encinitas artists.

“Rodney was selected for the Artist Outreach Project because he demonstrates a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for engaging Encinitas seniors and middle school students to work together in ‘artist project teams’ that will transform local trash into environmental folk art,” said Victor Nelson, executive director, The Kenneth A. Picerne Foundation. “His passion for folk art and the people of his community is infectious.”

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heusso January 16, 2013 at 7:03 pm

you ol’ dog… just keep dem cottonpik’n hands off my trash. good luck teach ol’ dogs new tricks. daHeussomeister

Lester Corral January 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Congrats Rodney!

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