Artist Reclaims Materials, and His Past, Present, and Future

Yard Art Yard’s latest collaboration is with Benjamin Gale-Schreck. His website states the following information about him.

Mackinaw Queen III, Benjamin Gale-Schreck“Central to my work is the process of repurposing abandoned materials.  By reassigning context to the forgotten I am able to give each object and material a new life, distinctive from an otherwise prescribed fate.”

Comparisons to the West Colfax revitalization effort seem apparent to me. The headline could read: Repurposed and Abandoned Materials Artist Displays Art in Repurposed and Once Abandoned West Colfax Corridor.

For this, and many other reasons, I was excited to sit down with Benjamin and speak to him about his work.

Initially I asked Benjamin how he came to develop an affinity for repurposed and reused materials.

He explained to me, “At my house in Illinois where I grew up we had a big machine shed and a couple of farms that my dad grew up on, and they were all full of old building materials and just random things. I was constantly going through them, different leftover materials, and making stuff from little pushcarts to go down the hill, to anything. I was always creating objects. And what I learned from that was seeing the potential of all these forgotten [things].”

Benjamin’s face lit up when he spoke about his childhood and in particular his father. He said that toward the end of his life, his dad began to shift from construction and carpentry to focus more on education and “creating a safe place for people to express themselves.” Benjamin’s father created a multi-generational performance group called the Cardboard Players, where members of all ages came together to act out plays written by community members, sometimes as young as elementary school. As the name implies, all of the props were created using recycled and repurposed cardboard.

Benjamin stated, “Everything is about community. You really do have to seek out those people that are going to benefit from your work and what you’re doing and can help you through the process.”

I scrutinized Benjamin to explain to me why repurposed materials are even important in today’s world.

“I feel like we live in a very disposable society,” he told me quietly but with absolute conviction. “We’re taught about convenience and how everything should be more efficient. It’s a single-use society. And so, in a way I’m trying to help people see the potential of, not just a different object on the ground, but my purpose is, through the use of these objects, to help everyone see their own potential.

“Each of us is a different person. We have our own unique stories, our own background and it’s only when we start interacting and having a conversation with someone that we discover what they can offer to [our] own life.

“I’m trying to create that connection to the past, to show how our past is very relevant to our future. And how we can learn from that.”

Benjamin doesn’t use repurposed materials lightly though. Each individual piece is the result of a thought-out and contemplative process, and represents both a link to the past and a structure for reflection toward the future. Examples of this within his current work, Mackinaw Queen III, include slate rock pieces from a train depot and a donated canvas from a well-loved community art center.Mackinaw Queen III, Benjamin Gale-Schreck

I asked Benjamin to reflect on how his work connects to the Lakewood West Colfax community itself. He responded slowly and thoughtfully.

“[Heading to] our meeting at Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters, I drove past the building at first, and thought that it was an industrial warehouse. It wasn’t until I called the establishment that I realized I had driven past it, as I was expecting to find a big sign. [This location] is an example of how we overlook our peripheral landscape, and have become dependent upon the corporate model of large flashy signs to tell us where to go.

“Ultimately it makes me think about the connections 40 West Arts District is creating through its outreach and community building. The support of up-and-coming establishments with a true stake in the local community seems to be central in what you are trying to do. This connection with the peripherals of our history, or our individual places of origin, is also key in my artistic practices.”

Benjamin revealed a final statement that resonated with me for many days following our meeting. He said simply but eloquently that “art is an idea, and so it’s about making that idea transferable and understood by all. I want to start a conversation that’s going to go somewhere.”

Check out the links below to Benjamin’s work and other projects, to his collaboration with William Jude Rumley of Yard Art Yard, and to Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters, where we met for our meeting.


Click here to access William Jude Rumley’s video on the installation and collaboration of the Mackinaw Queen III, currently showing at Yard Art Yard.

More information about Benjamin Gale-Schreck, including upcoming shows:

And definitely head over to Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters.

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