Shell Beach has a few new additions to its main street that are both ornamental and functional. On Friday night, community members revealed their “ARTcans,” a set of 12 painted trash and recycling cans along Shell Beach Road.
Before the inauguration on Nov. 13, there were no trash or recycling cans in the city. The Shell Beach Improvement Group (SBIG) had been trying for a few years to bring cans like these to the city and have local artists paint them, but they had faced some difficulty finding willing artists. Then Colleen Gnos, a Shell Beach resident and artist who recently heard about the project, organized a group of 12 artists whom she knew would be enthusiastic.
“This event is a big step for Shell Beach — we really are a community of artists, but it’s hard to see it most of the time,” Gnos said. “I really want this to be a chance for Shell Beach artists to meet and feel supported.”
Gnos helped the SBIG move the cans, find sponsors for the project and garner public attention for the show, in addition to painting a can herself.
“There is little support for recycling in Shell Beach, and creating these cans not only helps make the city more beautiful but also promotes environmentalism,” Gnos said.
Each artist painted a trash or recycling can under the theme “Sand, Waves and Caves” and created 12 unique and beautiful works of art with images of mermaids, beaches and similar scenes. The fourth-grade students at the Shell Beach Elementary School painted a can together as well.
The businesses on the main street of Shell Beach held an open house for the event, offering free refreshments and a place for visitors and artists to mingle. Local musicians wandered up and down the street, adding a friendly and fun atmosphere to the event. The artists who painted cans, as well as other local artists and photographers, displayed their work in various shops and restaurants.
Tyler Aldrich, wife and representative of Dominican-born artist Robert Maja, another Shell Beach artist who painted a can, said that Robert “is really proud to live here in California, and it is so great for him to be able to be part of the Shell Beach community and share his culture. This event is a wonderful way for Robert and other Shell Beach artists like him to be able to express themselves through their artwork.”
The community of Shell Beach supported their local artists in several ways. Not only did local businesses offer the artists a welcoming place to display their work to the public, but the financial support for the creation and unveiling of the cans came solely from local residents and businesses.
The Old Vienna Restaurant was one Shell Beach business that sponsored a can.
“The SBIG has been working on this for three years,” restaurant owner and SBIG member Zoa Musick said. “When it was finally decided that the cans would be painted, I wanted to be involved, so I volunteered right away to sponsor a can.”
The event drew a large attendance of both Shell Beach locals and visitors. Most came to support family or friends and be part of a good cause.
“It’s a community event, and it’s a really great idea,” Shell Beach resident Kate Flynn said. “I know some of the artists personally, and so I was able to see these cans evolve from the beginning — I watched the artists paint them in their driveways!”
The event also attracted Cal Poly students like biology freshman Jena Epperson.
“I find this type of event to be a great way to get to know people as well as a great way for a city to show their ideals about saving our planet one recyclable at a time,” Epperson said. “The intricately painted recycling cans were unique and beautiful; they stand out and depict trash-free environments that everyone can recognize and relate to. My personal favorite was the jellyfish can.”