Las Vegas, N.M — Obsolete paint from New Mexico Highlands University is being used for fine art students’ projects rather than heading to an EPA-licensed hazardous waste disposal facility in Albuquerque.
The idea is the brainchild of Lisa Joseph in the university’s Facilities Services Division. The paint donation, which is in colors the university no longer uses for its buildings, will save Highlands $4,638 in disposal costs.
Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, paint is identified as a hazardous waste due to solvents and other chemicals that can harm humans and the environment.
“Not only is this paint donation saving the university money, it’s also great for the environment,” Joseph said. “Even after hazardous waste is treated, it still goes to a landfill where there’s the possibility of harmful chemicals leaking into groundwater. It’s always better to reuse, repurpose or recycle rather than send waste to landfills.”
Joseph has 20 years of experience as a materials manager, including hazardous waste disposal. At Highlands, she purchases, stocks and distributes materials for the facilities services staff. She also oversees the facilities warehouse, where the old paint was taking up storage space.
Joseph contacted state agencies and local schools about donating the paint but it wasn’t in colors they could use. Then she thought of the fine art students.
“I come from a family of artists, and I strongly support the arts,” Joseph said. “I’m happy that the students can use the paint to create art.”
She added that because much of the donation is neutral oil-based and acrylic base paint, the students can add small amounts of their own paint to mix the colors they want.
The paint is already being put to use.
“Some of the fine art students are already dipping into the paint for class projects,” said Melissa Williamson of the Visual and Performing Arts Department. “It costs a fortune to buy paint for large-scale paintings of 4-feet or larger. This donation gives our students a free resource to explore that format as well as murals.”
Williamson said the paint donation couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The timing of this donation was perfect because we’re exploring more ways for fine art and music to collaborate on campus,” Williamson said. “Art students can use the paint for sets they will design for university musical and theatrical productions.
“The donation provides us with materials that are expensive to purchase. It’s wonderful that Lisa thought of us in fine art and we very much appreciate the donation, ” Williamson said.
Next spring, the paint will be used for the annual Wearable Art Show at Highlands organized by fine art students in the Crossroads Art Club. For the first time, the 2013 event will be a collaboration between fine art and music students.
Williamson said there’s value in artists learning about using recycled materials rather than purchasing expensive art supplies.
“By using materials that would otherwise be discarded, the students become more aware of the inherent possibilities in recycling,” Williamson said. “Our artists will be using what other people have no need for to make something beautiful. In this case, the materials at hand can help drive the creative process and challenge the artist.”