May 04, 2022

Reuse and Repurpose

Deborah Banker

Nigel Hafiz '23 stands behind his recycled art project.


This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Maryland Department of the Environment hosting “Rethink Recycling,” a sculpture competition for Maryland high school students. 


In the fall, for the first time, a GCS student was recognized. Nigel Hafiz ’23 placed second in creativity, winning a cash prize for an original and complex sculpture inspired by an 1882 political cartoon about British Imperialism. Hafiz replaced John Bull with Uncle Sam and used maps of countries that have felt the heavy hand of American imperial power, incorporating soda cans to symbolize the extractive relationship between American capital and the global South. 


Hafiz worked tirelessly over many weeks to solve the problems of fabricating a sculpture with only recycled materials, including hangers, pool noodles, fabric tote bags, cans, and cardboard.


“What struck me as important about the experience was the ability to bring attention to the often-ignored history of the American Empire and to have spurred discussion on anti-imperialism within our community,” says Hafiz.


Visual arts teacher Deborah Banker was impressed by the depth of Hafiz’s political commentary on modern world politics and the commitment he exhibited in his fabrication practice. “Many students can think of complex and interesting ideas, but very few are willing to work hard enough to complete the creative expression,” Banker says.


Other students who submitted work to the competition include Karleen Cangialosi ’23, Samuel Dodge ’22, and Corrin Grimes ’22. 


The sculpture contest, part of America Recycles Day (ARD), challenges students to innovatively and artistically use recycled materials as a solution to waste reduction. Cecilia Lazzari ’24 notes that “it is important to create sculptures out of recycled materials because we repurposed them instead of materials going to waste.” 

Dodge agrees. “The value to me was using things that would otherwise be unused to make a meaningful new piece of art to share with people.”  


Students benefit from participating in this event because work from across the state is submitted. The event is an opportunity to see other students’ work and connect with the artists. As the five judges peruse the competition artworks, each judge speaks with the artist and asks questions about the design concept and recycled materials’ origin and use.  


Grimes found the interaction helpful. “After talking to the judges multiple times, it gave me more confidence to talk to adults.” 


As a national event, ARD promotes recycling, source reduction, and buying products made from recycled materials as objectives to a more sustainable society. The contest gives students the chance to be inventive and create a sculpture made from recyclable or reused materials.


Cangialosi recommends students participate in the project because “it allowed me to look at different materials in unusual ways that I would never have thought.”

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