Archived Story

Upcoming art show looks at repurposing, reinventing

Published 9:15am Saturday, September 22, 2012

Column: Bev Jackson Cotter, Art  Is…

Bev Jackson Cotter

I love the description of the upcoming “ReShow” at the Albert Lea Art Center: reinvent, reconstruct, repurpose, refurbish, reuse, restore, refinish, redo, reimagine, reclaim, re…

It reminds me of my growing up years when “recycling” was unknown, but “Don’t throw that away. We can use it again,” was a way of life.

Dad liked to stop at the Salvation Army Store to purchase shirts. He was proud of the 25 cent price tags and always said, “They are plenty good enough for everyday.” Mom made throw rugs of worn out clothing, cutting fabrics into 1-inch strips and then braiding them together or hooking them through a burlap bag into a design that was pleasing to the eye. An abstract pattern of familiar fabrics was an artistic distraction from a cold bathroom floor.

Quilts were made from clothing fabrics and lined with worn blankets. Fat from butchering was blended with lye and made into laundry soap, and during WWII car tire inner tubes were patched again and again because of the rubber shortage.

Remember when 78 records were heated in the oven, softened and reshaped into wall decorations and macaroni was glued onto cigar boxes, which were then spray-painted and kept on the dressing table for jewelry storage?

We reused, reinvented, and restored and never dreamed that someday it would be the new and popular thing to do, or that anyone would ever think of it as art. My Thorndike-Barnhart calls art “a branch of learning appealing to the imagination.” Well, that’s what our mode of recycling was and still is.

Repurposing also happens on a much larger scale. The Freeborn County courtroom where I once sat as a jurist in a murder trial is now a meeting room, and I was there recently at a training session for election judges. Even in the art center, businesses and galleries now occupy the space where we once watched Gene Autry ride off into the sunset, playing his guitar and singing, “Drifting Along With the Tumbling Tumbleweeds.” Most of the beautiful historic buildings in downtown Albert Lea have different uses than originally planned, reinvented to keep up with changes in our life style, commerce and society.

And now a group of Austin enthusiasts are hoping to redo the original municipal power plant and develop it into a center for the arts. They just completed a very successful weekend festival and are already planning for the future. It is a huge undertaking, and I am betting on their success.

When I was a little girl, my neighbor and I were playing house in the backyard, and we decided to make pretend soup. Our pan was a little bucket and our vegetables were small stones and gravel from the driveway. We added water and then spiced the soup up with some cement from a bag in the garage. When Dad came home from work, he was upset about our getting into the cement, but to remedy the situation, he added more cement to our soup and then patched a hole in the porch foundation.

The new “ReShow” at the art center promises to be a blending of recreative ideas and lots of fun. The open house will be held on Thursday, Oct. 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. with ‘’Thrifty and Nifty,” a refashion show, beginning promptly at 5:30 p.m. Please join us with your own “re-stories.”


Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center where the new exhibit “ReShow” will be on display from Oct. 4 through Nov. 3.  The art center is at 224 S. Broadway Ave. and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.