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Trash into treasure: South Florida artist inspires students and an entire community
Photo - David Anasagasti

Trash into treasure: South Florida artist inspires students and an entire community

David Anasagasti developed a project during his residency at the FIU Ratcliffe Art +Design Incubator that has led to thousands of his upcycled art pieces snapped up off Miami's streets

August 4, 2023 at 3:00pm

To inspire the next generation, the FIU Ratcliffe Art + Design Incubator in 2021 welcomed renowned South Florida visual artist David Anasagasti to serve in the role of “entrepreneurial artist-in-residence.” Aimed to bridge the gap between entrepreneurship and creative innovation, the incubator became the meeting ground for students wanting to learn from Anasagasti as he developed “Geographies of Trash,” a project that has since captured imaginations across the region and earned commendations from local leaders.  

The idea originated as the COVID-19 pandemic started and came to fruition when Anasagati began his residency. Anasagati had taken to biking around Miami and “tagging” trash he found along the way. He would immediately stop and paint his signature emblem – a stylized open eye - on the discard before posting a photo on social media. His followers would look at the uploaded image for hints about the item’s location and rush to collect the free, one-of-a-kind piece. An old life jacket, an empty detergent bottle, a dented suitcase, a lost hubcap, broken eyeglasses – these and a lot of other castoffs all got the treatment.

Now, through an expanded collaboration the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab-FIU, the project has grown into a locally recognized initiative that promotes sustainability and environmental consciousness.

“The idea was to take things I was already doing and mashing them all together to create a movement,” said Anasagasti. His ongoing work has engaged the community and made art accessible to the masses. He has even turned images of the more than 2,000 pieces of tagged trash into NFTs, which he gives, at no charge, to the individuals who collected his art off the streets of Miami.

More recently, the artist encouraged fans to collect and recylce a bag of garbage as part of a designation Georgraphies of Trash Day. With photo proof of the effort, he provided a gift in the form of another NFT.

"The Geographies of Trash project creates engagement with our South Florida community while creating a social consciousness of some of Miami-Dade's most pressing issues,” said Brian Schriner, Dean of the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts (CARTA), which houses the incubator. “David's residency has inspired and empowered our students and shows the power of art and innovation. It exemplifies the transformative impact that art can have in fostering environmental consciousness, promoting sustainable practices and building community. We are proud to facilitate such innovative projects that can have a real impact on our community.”

Throughout his time working on the project, Anasagasti and the Ratcliffe team met with students around the topic of using art as a medium for social impact.   

Jeronimo Mura is an FIU journalism student and one of the Ratcliffe's designated student fellows, each of whom receives mentorship and training in how to turn their artistic ideas into businesses. 

"I met David Anasagasti during my fellowship and was inspired by his story and how Geographies of Trash connected people and places," Mura said. "I loved seeing how he built connections and networked in a digital world."

Geographies of Trash has also gained notable recognition and was featured on South Florida PBS’ Art Loft, local news stations like WPLG Local 10. Recently, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava honored Anasagasti and the incubator with a proclamation that designated June 30 as Geographies of Trash Day.

"David Anasagasti’s project, presented an exceptional opportunity for our students to actively participate in experiential learning,” said Jacek J. Kolasinski, program director for the incubator. “Through this multi-faceted entrepreneurial venture, they can address pressing societal issues such as upcycling trash, mental health, environmental sustainability and community resilience." 

David Anasagasti (center) with (left to right) Brian Schriner (CARTA Dean), Graham Winick (Chief Administrator for Cultural Affairs for Miami-Dade County), Daniela Jean (City of North Miami Beach Commissioner), and Dr. Jacek Kolasinki (RA+DI Program Director)
David Anasagasti (center) with (left to right) Brian Schriner (CARTA Dean), Graham Winick (chief administrator for cultural affairs, Miami-Dade County), Daniela Jean (City of North Miami Beach Commissioner), and Jacek Kolasinki (Ratcliffe Art + Design Incubator program director) pose with a proclamation honoring Anasagasti's art initiative.