My Garbage Can

I have had such wonderful feedback on the garbage can that I’m painting for the Edmonton Intercultural Centre’s fundraiser. But there have also been a few comments that have questioned the optics of associating a garbage can with a cultural group. Does it have negative connotations?  I’ve thought long and hard about it and it’s lead to the following philosophical rambling.

I appreciate the concerns, but I am not painting garbage. I am painting something that sits quietly in the community and collects the waste we create. It keeps the environment safe, clean, and beautiful.  Like the many ethnic communities that make up Canada, it helps beautify our environment thus contributing to the richness of our community. On a deeper level, in one respect the garbage can is also a good analogy for the life of an immigrant. So many have had to internalize garbage – whether it’s in the form of fear or the unknown felt during resettlement, or as racial intolerance imposed by the undereducated. An immigrant so often has to take garbage in and with sheer strength and perseverance continue to shine beauty and continue to support their family and contribute positively to the community. I like the garbage can.

The background story for this project is that 40 of the cans were donated to the Edmonton Intercultural Center to be painted by artists in the community, be on display at City Hall, and then auctioned off as a fundraiser. I’ve had many people question the use of a garbage can. The optics can be negative, but then there’s the flipside.  It’s all in the messaging – why not take advantage of the donation to beautify the community, show off our rich culture, and bring together the artists and cultures they represent. Several have already said they’d love any of the cans in their homes – just take off the lid and it transforms into anything you want. When you’re given lemons, think of all the lemonade you can make.