The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Is your D.C. garbage truck actually public art?

RECYCLE by Ernesto Zelaya. (Photo by Valerie Russell for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.)

There are nine recycling trucks roaming around the District covered in bright colors — and it’s not from sticky trash scraps.

The trucks, which are used to pick up the city’s recycling, are wrapped in local art.

The D.C. Commission for Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with the Department of Public Works, hosted a “Designed to Recycle” competition in which local artists submitted original designs to be wrapped around the trucks. Philadelphia hosted a similar competition in 2010.

In all, the commission selected nine designs that were wrapped on trucks throughout the summer. Local students are working on a recycling-themed design for the 10th truck.

“It’s a win-win combination of animating the streets with public art, as well as educational opportunities,” said Elizabeth Carriger, the public art coordinator for the Commission on the Arts and Humanities. The designs include flowers, animals and abstract representations of recycling.

The trucks, says Carriger, are intended to draw attention to the importance of recycling.

“It brings attention to the people who are operating the trucks, as well,” she said, adding that truck operators have told her that residents go up and talk to them about the designs on the trucks when they otherwise wouldn’t. “It’s sort of a thankless job.”

The art is expected to remain for two or three years.

Below is a list of the artists and their pieces wrapped on the trucks. To be selected, artists must live in or have studio space in Washington. Click here to learn more about the artists.

Kellie Cox, Colors in the Night
Erin Curtis, French Trip
John Deardourff, The Cap City Cruncher
Patricia Goslee, Tale of Three
Yuriko Jackall, Heat
Carolyn Sewell, The ‘Cycle of Life 
Nicolas F. Shi, Nuestra Tierra
Kirk Waldroff, Consilius’ Four Questions
Ernesto Zelaya, RECYCLE