Richmond Arts Center has been holding holiday arts festivals for more than 50 years. But this is the first time its festival has gone green, thanks to volunteers who spent a week in November making decorations for the Dec. 2 festival out of old newspapers.
This shift from new to recycled materials is innovative, cost-efficient and environmentally friendly. And it represents a more dignified final use for newspapers than serving as birdcage liner for the family parrot.
“People have donated paper, magazines and labor,” said Elizabeth Pedilla, RAC’s administrative director, as a dozen volunteers worked newsprint into tightly curled rosettes on a rainy November afternoon.
Pedilla said the outpouring reflects Richmond’s continuing loyalty to print in an increasingly digital age. “A lot of people, perhaps 40, donated the paper,” she said. “It’s good survey of how many Richmond residents still use newspapers.
“It’s a way to save money while being creative,” said John Severa, RAC’s custom service coordinator.
Jackie Morris, who was cutting newspaper into strips, said she walked into RAC’s building by mistake.
“But when they told me it was about crafts, I said, sure, I’ll help, that’s right up my alley,” Morris said.
Velma Hartwell, who was rolling paper strips into rosettes, said Morris told her about the volunteer event. “We do a lot of art projects together, we do sewing, we make curtains, and pillows for our homes,” Hartwell said.
Lynn Richards said she has taken bookmaking classes at the center and wanted to give back.
“I want to support them,’ Richards said as she stuck paper rosettes together with a glue gun.
Nancy Lane, 92, said she has been coming to the center to take ceramics and bookmaking classes for a thousand years.
“Well, perhaps it’s really 15 years,” Lane said.
For Zona Roberts, this was her first visit to the center. “I’m here because of my friend Nancy Lane,” Roberts said, nodding at her friend. “She has come here and made wonderful chickens. I have some at my house and those chickens said, you better find out where this arts place is!”
Goshi Kogure was making paper bow ties for visitors at the Dec. 2 festival. He started coming to RAF to do community service, some years ago, then decided to stay on as a volunteer.
“I love it,” Kogure said. “The people are wonderful so I do my own art work, and do maintenance, cleaning, and gardening to help the center.”
Axelle Fortier said she initially came to RAC to get training in data processing input, but now volunteers.
“I was having a hard time finding somewhere taking on someone without experience,” Fortier said.
RAC administrative assistant Kristen Jones took a break from bundling “branches” into Christmas trees to explain that this year’s festival has a vintage theme.
“Think Mad Men,” Jones said, recalling how the center looked through its archives and found the earliest mention of the event in a 1961 newspaper article announcing the center’s ‘Christmas Bazaar.’
“There will be classic holiday songs, hopefully people will come in costumes, wear paper ties and flower hats, and visit the booths of our fantastic vendors,” Jones said.
“And it’s going to be really fun for the community to have an event with activities, like the auction, without having to travel somewhere else,” Pedilla said.
RAC’s Holiday Arts Festival takes place Sunday Dec 2, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Free Admission. 2540 Barrett Avenue, Richmond. 510.620.6772 www.therac.org