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From trash to treasure
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Fourth grade students at Mansfield Elementary School busily glued strips of bejeweled green plastic to untangled coat hangers covered in tomato cage in their art class Tuesday morning.

A dirty pool light cover sat atop the cone-shaped mass, which rested upon two flattened soda cans.

"It's a woman," exclaimed Molly Tanner, fourth grade student.

Mrs. Recycle to be exact.

Local artist and Keep Covington/Newton Beautiful executive board member Carol Veliotis is acting as Mansfield's artist in residence this week and next, helping students learn to take items bound for the landfill and turn them into sculptural masterpieces.

Veliotis and the students brought in bags of aluminum cans, rope, beads and other unwanted household knick-knacks out of which to create art.

"Every single item was found," Veliotis said. "It's all either scrap stuff or it was on the street."

Nov. 15 is recognized as America Recycles day and the Mansfield Parent Teacher Organization wanted art ready for that national awareness date. Veliotis is known locally for her "found art," which she has been crafting for 20 years.

"I must have been out on a walk one day and seen some cool piece of twisted metal and said, 'Oh that looks like a bar of music,'" Veliotis said, "and then things just started appearing."

At Mansfield she is encouraging the students to see more than an object's original purpose as well as to work together toward a common goal.

Fourth and fifth grade students are creating child-sized Mr. and Mrs. Recycle from old pieces of fabric, chandelier chains, photo frame stands and worn accessories.

"I've never done anything this big," said Nathaniel Howard, fourth grade student. "We always do clay projects or paintings but never anything with this much stuff."

Kindergartners are fashioning a pony out of a large piece of Veliotis' previous furnace, first graders are decorating mobiles with scraps of wood they drew nature scenes on, second graders are constructing small plastic figures for a mobile and third grade students are adorning mobiles with metal and ceramics.

Bridget Nalls, art teacher at Mansfield, said all of the more than 500 students at the school will have a hand in fashioning found art. She added Mansfield houses extremely creative students.

"I'm just surprised every week by what they create," Nalls said.

Not only are students learning how to turn trash to treasure but also how much energy recycling conserves.

Veliotis said she impressed students with a fact from one of her many books about recycling - recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to power an average size television for three hours.

"These projects are teaching them the responsibility of not throwing every thing in the trash," Veliotis said, "and with the drought right now, the more energy we conserve the better."

Veliotis said she hopes the sculptures the students build will continue to remind them of the importance of recycling. She also commended Mansfield students and PTO for their recycling efforts at the school as well as their enthusiasm and artistic vision.

"I inspire the students and they inspire me as well with their creativity," Veliotis said. "It's like a communal inspiration society."