Redefine what’s usable at R.A.R.E.

Bellingham is a community rich in organizations that support the arts and sustainability, says Bellingham artist Thor Myhre.

Myhre says Bellingham has been recognized as a leader in green practices and, according to one source, has the second highest density of art-related businesses in the country (see Livability.com for details).

So, after several years of working with the organizations in various capacities, such as helping Allied Arts start an art supply thrift store, and connecting The RE Store’s plethora of recycled art media with Whatcom Museum’s educational team at the Family Interactive Gallery, Myhre came to a realization. Since recycled art is a relatively new genre, he decided a supportive infrastructure was in demand for the new industry.

“I created the Recycled Art & Resource Expo (R.A.R.E.) in 2012 to provide resources and opportunities for artists and businesses to help inspire people to be green, because its cool and fun,” he says. “Historically, new ideas, such as the green movement, need creative people to give the message a more entertaining appeal for a wider audience. R.A.R.E. owes its success to the enthusiasm of hundreds of artists, volunteers, interns, sponsors, business partners and the dedicated staff at Allied Arts who have worked hard with a shoestring budget.”

This year’s expo runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 3-4, at Allied Arts Gallery, the Ragfinery, and at the former and the current Dakota Arts stores, both on Cornwall Avenue.

The first year of R.A.R.E, Myhre invested more than 1,000 hours producing events, writing copy and creating infrastructure, sculpting the R.A.R.E. logo, networking with West Coast enthusiasts, and even trading art for assistance. He participated in a half-dozen events, including Trash Fashion, played a modified trombone with Monkey Puzzle Orchestra, and screened a new documentary, “ReVision,” that featured his artwork as well as a trash-fashion competition and musicians and artists working with repurposed materials.

The second year, Myhre scaled back to a more behind-the-scenes role.

This year, he’s displaying art at Allied Arts Gallery and is offering his “Junk Has Soul” sculpture workshop at 2 p.m. Saturday at Allied Arts, preceded by a presentation by Eberhard Eichner, who re-purposes furniture at the RE Store.

This is the first year Lori Hill has participated in the expo. She and 11 other Bellingham artists have joined forces to organize a “pop-up art” gallery at the former Dakota Arts location.

Artist Laurel Baldwin says a “pop-up” gallery is a great way to convert vacant retail space downtown into a fun and colorful art gallery — for just one night.

“This is a first time for all of us involved, but it has generated inquiries from other local artists already, so who knows? There may be more pop-ups in the future,” Baldwin says.

Karin Mueller has participated in R.A.R.E. since its inception, and says she learns something every year. The first and second year she had artist booths and sold recycled or repurposed art. Last year, she entered three pieces of recycled art in the gallery.

This year, she is entering two pieces for sale at Allied Arts gallery, and she and Graham Schodda, a found-object artist, are holding a two-hour workshop called the “Reclaimers,” in which participants make “a cool wooden mask with all kinds of recycled adornments, which will be suitable for hanging when finished.”

Mueller says there are workshops for a variety of interests, such as an altered-book class where you take “old funky books and make beautiful creations out of them; and the salvaged furniture exhibit is fascinating and gives one many unique ideas.”

Brian Renno, a first-timer at R.A.R.E., is exhibiting art work made from recycled pop and beer cans.

“Many people are doing great things with recycled materials; come see the possibilities,” he says.