When you throw away your trash, do you ever think about what happens to it? Though most trash is sent off to the dump, adding to mountains of landfill, not everyone considers trash to be worthless garbage.
The Philadelphia Dumpster Divers group formed in 1992 when Leo Sewel and six other artists got together at a diner and talked about sharing and recycling resources. Artist Linda Lou Horn described the Philadelphia Dumpster Divers as “an eclectic group of artists, architects, poets, performance artists, and found objects artists.” When the group was first founded, it was called the Philadelphia Dumpster Diners, but the members changed the name because they did not want people to think that they ate out of dumpsters.
The Philadelphia Dumpster Divers meet once a month. During that meeting, they get together and talk about their experiences creating art from found materials. The Philadelphia Dumpster Divers is not just a group of people, but a movement fueled by a sense of social activism. Horn said, “We are in a throw-away society which is really quite sickening.” Groups that are similar to Philadelphia Dumpster Divers exist all over the country, from California to New York. One such group in Seattle organizes a festival during which artists dress up in outfits made of found materials.
The Dumpster Divers do not technically dumpster dive, because dumpster diving is illegal. But they still find ways to get found materials. On trash days, the artists will go around and pick up items that they think might be of use. Artists will also go to flea markets and yard sales to get all a wide variety of materials.
A main goal of the Dumpster Divers’ monthly meetings is to research galleries that might showcase their work. For the last two summers, the Dumpster Divers have shown their work in several storefronts. You can check out Horn’s work at the Snyderman Gallery where it is currently displayed alongside the art of other found object artists.