Richardson art nonprofit finds utility in scraps

Originally published in The Dallas Morning News.

For those among us that aren’t inducted into DIY culture, a space stocked with baby food jars, wine corks, bottle caps and yarn might just seem like a very tidy landfill. Three local art teachers have made it their mission to prove otherwise.

Deborah Molotsky, Dee Ann McNeil and Jenny Bobadilla are the three founders of Chartreuse, a Richardson-based nonprofit organization that focuses on repurposing what might seem like junk — things such as cast-offs, defects, paper, trinkets and everything in between — into creative projects.

They’re in the midst of bringing the organization to life and are searching for a physical location to house the center.

“I know Richardson will jump on this wagon of repurposing things that may have been trashed,” McNeil said. “We hope to have classes for children and adults and teach them how to repurpose items and have fun creating something new.”

McNeil said Molotsky first approached her with the idea while they were teachers at Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet School. They took a field trip to Missouri to visit Molotsky’s hometown and the site of her original inspiration; the Hallmark Visitor’s Center in Kansas City sponsors a workshop where kids make art with left-overs from the company.

Immediately upon their return home, McNeil ordered some of the center’s inventory, and an idea turned into a partnership.

The nonprofit’s official mission is to connect the community through material reuse and art education. Most recently, the organization had a booth at the Wildflower Arts and Music Festival, where they taught participants how to repurpose old paper scraps.

Bobadilla, the organization’s director of events, also handles social media and is the self-ascribed “creative idea generator” for the team.

She’s also a former art teacher — she taught alongside Molotsky at Richardson West Junior High School — and she says young kids aren’t at all afraid of creating. Adults, on the other hand…

“Why is it that adults are so self-critical that they don’t even want to try,” she said. “Could it be that they are thinking of art as a convergent activity?”

Maybe, adults tend to think in terms of outcomes or results. If what I create doesn’t come close to professional work, why bother?

Bobadilla said she believes art should fall into the divergent thinking category. In short, society benefits greatly from “outside the box” thinking — like the kind needed to turn trash into treasure.

“We applaud innovation in the real world, but in a school scenario, students are often pressed to conform and turn off their creativity caps,” she said. “My motto is ‘Don’t think outside the box. Tear it up and make it into something cooler.’”

Bobadilla’s point is simple: people — especially kids — need more time and more resources to be creative. She said some schools give kids one hour a week for art class.

“While our art teachers do a fabulous job, everyone knows that is not enough time for kids to get creative,” she said. “I am passionate about teaching people that their ability to create and express themselves is valuable It should not be relegated to one hour per week, and adults usually get even less to be creative.”

She said her hope is that Chartreuse can help bridge that gap.

Their dream — to connect people through art classes and volunteer opportunities — isn’t novel by any means, but their method seems inventive and refreshing.

“We hope that through our endeavors, art, creativity and reuse are infused into the lives that make up our community,” she said. “This is long past due in our city and we think the Richardson residents are going to jump at the chance to pass on their old materials and come to let their creative side loose.”