'Art of Recycling' show proves one man's junk can be another man's work of art

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Alex Fuellgraf of Penn Township, Butler County, likes to weld for fun.

“I love welding. I do it whenever I'm bored,” he said.

Fuellgraf creates animals out of junk, and one of his designs, “Happy Landing,” has been entered in this year's “Art of Recycling Show,” beginning Friday in the Cranberry Township Municipal Center. The show is now in its third year.

“I found the handles of some pliers, and they looked like a duckbill to me,” the 24-year-old said. “I see something that looks like a part of an animal. Then, I find other things to put together with it.”

With one piece found and an idea, he set out to build a duck from a shovel handle, a coupling, a U-bolt and the back of an old spotlight, he explained. It wasn't until he was welding the feet — tabs from joist hangers for roofing — that he got the artwork's name.

The duck has become a favorite in his menagerie, which includes a turtle, scorpion, flamingo, spider and one of Oz's Flying Monkeys, all made for his mother.

Through the years, Fuellgraf has turned his Knoch High School class in arc welding into a hobby he enjoys two or three nights a week. In May, he'll graduate from California University of Pennsylvania with a business degree.

“He has an eye that can see stuff out of junk,” said his mother, Melanie Fuellgraf, 52, of New Castle who entered the metal sculpture in the Cranberry show.

That's the trait that has delighted Terry Hagan, a board member of The Associated Artists of Butler County (AABC) most about recycled art shows, where you don't have to be an artist to enter.

“There's some really neat stuff, crazy stuff, unique stuff,” he said. “You look at it and think ‘Why didn't I think of that?'”

The art show is another piece of the partnership between the township and the Butler art center.

“Until we partnered with AABC, we did not have any art-related exhibitions available to the public in Cranberry for over 10 years,” said Bruce Mazzoni, chairman of Cranberry's board of supervisors and treasurer of the township's community chest organization.

“The art contest was our venture into creating an art council again. Last year, the partnership with AABC was a great success, and we started to see where we could work together.”

Cranberry Township Community Chest is funding the more than $1,700 in prize money from Community Days sponsors who designated their contribution to the arts.

Statewide Cranberry has become known for its commitment to weekly recycling.

“Today, many municipalities still come to Cranberry to learn about starting a successful program,” Mazzoni explained. “For some reason, having a recycle art contest as part of Community Days made sense.”

Hagan, 73, of Butler, will help to set up the show. He has spent a lifetime collecting and selling art, dabbling in watercolors and taking classes. He calls himself a novice when it comes to painting and experiencing creativity in a more traditional way.

But of the recycle art show, he's absolutely certain, “You never know what you're going to get.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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