From detritus to desirable
Sand Ridge Nature Center program participants turn debris into works of art
Gathering a few feathers and some twigs, Thomas McDowell set out to create a butterfly on Nov. 4 at the Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland.
“I’m hoping it turns out right,” the Markham resident said.
McDowell and a few others took part in a free monthly program at the center that encourages people to create art or practical items from discarded organic material found in the preserve. In autumn, the projects often include colorful fallen leaves.
McDowell said he plays sports during the summer, but wanted to learn new activities to stay busy during the fall and winter. He had found out about the program through word-ofmouth.
Keyanna White, of Harvey, said programs such as the one Nov. 4 keep her coming back to Sand Ridge.
“I love anything involved with nature and do-it-yourself crafts,” she said. “It’s simple and cheap to make and you can adjust and modify it to your liking.”
During another session White created a wind catcher using sticks, stones and string. A wind catcher is a cross between a Native American dream catcher and a wind chime and can be displayed indoors or outdoors. White said she was supposed to use a willow branch rather than a string, but the wet weather at the time made the branch hard to use for that purpose.
On Nov. 4, she was looking to create an artistic rose by folding several fallen sycamore and maple leaves. With the red, gold, yellow and brown colors of the leaves White was confident in the final outcome of her creation.
“It’s going to come out beautiful,” she said.
Alex Palmer, a naturalist for the Cook County Forest Preserve District who helped organize the event, said other art programs at the center incorporated plastic bottle caps and other trash into making sculptures.
“It’s related to our conservation mission of reusing materials,” he said.
The center is surrounded by several nature trails and some art-making programs are held outside when the weather is pleasant.
“We’re always incorporating artmaking activities along with with nature hikes,” said Sophia Vela, a recreation aide at the center.
The next reusable art program at the center involves wrapping presents using old forest preserve district flyers, pamphlets or maps, or making gift boxes out of those materials. Palmer said some old calendars that are decorative would make especially aesthetic gift wrapping.
A date for the event has yet to be determined but will be posted on the center’s Facebook page and the district’s website. But the next major event at the nature center is on Nov. 18, when the 46th annual Settler’s Day brings costumed historical re-enactors, history hikes, crafts and an imaginary wagon train adventure to Sand Ridge, 15891 Paxton Ave. The event is free.
Alex Palmer, a naturalist for the Cook County Forest Preserve District, holds a wind catcher created from natural materials during a program at Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland.
Programs at the Sand Ridge Nature Center encourage people to create art using natural materials and trash, such as plastic.