OKC Beautiful to Engage Volunteers in Collecting Litter for Art Piece Made of Trash

Posted by Natalie Evans on 07/12/2022

OKC Beautiful is working with local artist Gabriel Friedman to construct a sculpture made of trash as a way to communicate about the harms of litter and single-use materials. 

The piece will be installed in the southeast corner of Scissortail Park’s developing Lower Park and will be constructed using trash collected by volunteers during litter cleanups. Anyone can participate in collecting materials during volunteer events. 

OKC Beautiful engages volunteers throughout the year with litter abatement efforts, but in the 1990s, began focusing on prevention methods for reducing litter, such as education in schools and public information campaigns. This art piece will serve as a way to communicate about the harms of litter, impact of single-use materials, and ways that we can take action to reduce and prevent litter. 

“We are looking forward to seeing this educational piece of art come to life,” said Lisa Synar, Executive Director of OKC Beautiful. “This unique piece will draw attention to the creative reuse of a variety of found materials by volunteers into a creative form and promote recycling, litter abatement, and resource conservation. We are grateful for the partnership with Scissortail Park to provide a home for this fun educational art.”

Gabriel Friedman is the artist working to construct the piece. He is an Oklahoma City based sculptural and large-scale 3D artist, photographer, builder, teacher, and father. His works and mediums are site-specific, ranging from the whimsical to the absurd. He has training and extensive experience in a variety of materials and mediums including carpentry and woodworking, naturally harvested materials, metal and welding, blacksmithing, general construction and contracting.

“I’ve been secretly making art out of trash for most of my life,” said artist Gabriel Friedman. “Whether I sneak it into my public art piece or when I make little trash sculptures just for me, I see “waste” as material embedded with energy and stories. So I am thrilled to be working with OKC Beautiful to create a public sculpture addressing the disposable nature of our society using items used, discarded and then recollected by my Oklahoma City neighbors and friends.”  

The placement at Scissortail Park is fitting, given the organization’s commitment to eco-friendly practices. The Scissortail Park Foundation has committed to no use of styrofoam or plastic water bottles, uses a variety of water and pollinator-conscious landscaping practices, and incorporates nature and environmental education in their programming. 

Maureen Heffernan, CEO & President of the Scissortail Park Foundation said of the project: “Sign me up for trash collection! I think this is a creative, effective and engaging way to work to drastically cut down on trash that eventually winds up in the Oklahoma River.   Gabriel Freeman, with his creative energy and ingenuity, will no doubt produce a sculpture that adds colorful and fun character to the Lower Park with and a critical underlying message.”

OKC Beautiful’s litter abatement efforts engage more than 5,000 volunteers each year. To complete this piece, volunteer assistance is needed to gather materials during clean up events. 

“This art piece has come about in a totally collaborative nature and will engage residents throughout our community in helping collect materials for the project, all while helping the environment,” said Natalie Evans, Program & Marketing Director for OKC Beautiful. “Volunteers will have a unique opportunity to say that they helped this vision come to life. We look forward to getting our community involved.” 

To participate in the project by volunteering to collect litter or by donating, visit www.okcbeautiful.com/programs/litterblitz. 

This project is currently sponsored by Cynthia & Jerry Brindley and Commercial Oklahoma. 

Pictured is a concept rendering of the sculpture, by Gabriel Friedman and Denise Duong. The rendering shows the piece in the correct location, though orientation and features of the piece are subject to change.