(Photo: "Love" by Riyad Elmasri)     

By Jada Brazell     

How do you rebuild a community from the same material that contributed to its destruction? You could reuse those materials in a way that replenishes hope, raises awareness, and sends aid back to the people who are in need of life’s basic necessities.

More than 70 local artists have done just that as part of “TIN: Orphan Art Project,” a grassroots initiative in which tin from demolished homes in Africa has been transformed into canvases, functional art, sculpture, and more. Sold art benefits two orphanages in Phokeng, South Africa, whose young inhabitants have lost parents due to disease, war and countless other tragedies.

 (Photo: "Hope" by Kari Seher)

The initiative began when Fort Worth resident Neil Christopher requested shipments of the brittle tin sheets that were laid to waste. Missionaries working with the orphanages responded by sending crates of tin to Texas in November, when the project was announced to (mostly) Fort Worth artists.

Response was overwhelming as artists emerged to lend their craft to charity.

“People had more of a connection to the project because of the material itself,” Christopher said. “I think the major reason we had so many artists participate was because of the reused aspect of it. It provided a personal inspiration that they were taking something useless and negative and turning into something new and positive.”

 (Photo: "Interior Radiance" by Kevin McGeehee)

The project was spearheaded by Christopher and owner of All Together Now Productions, Nicole Ofeno. They partnered with Fort Worth-based art collective Piranha Bear to garner enthusiasm, distribute tin, collect art, and organize events.

Artists were given until the first of February to finish their work as the leaders rallied community sponsorships and support so they could host multiple charity benefits. Before the grand art opening at Casa Manana in Fort Worth on Saturday, more than $5,000 had been raised.

The art is on display at Casa Manana for three weeks following the event. Afterward, local coffee shops and bars will exhibit the art and donate the proceeds as well.

“I am blown away by the support we have received,” Christopher said, noting additional sponsors like musician Daniel Katsuk, SiNaCa Studios and more. “When demolished material becomes a means to improve lives, recycling has reached a pinnacle.”

Christopher plans to make the Orphan Art Project an annual tradition in which the common thread will be recycled materials for a cause. He also plans to expand into Dallas next year.

“Everyone who hears about what we’re doing wants to pitch in,” he said. “It’s very encouraging to see the amount of talent and benevolence throughout the area.”

Christopher is also planning two fundraising fashion shows in July to raise money for DFW students who cannot afford back-to-school clothing. In the spirit of sustainable fashion, he will ask designers to create pieces from used clothing and fabrics. Designer fashion featured in the shows will be auctioned. He also will encourage designers of ready-to-wear and accessories to sell their work as well. The Dallas show will be held in the Design District; the Fort Worth show will be held in the Arts District. 

Currently, Christopher is looking for interested participants in the fashion industry, from designers to photographers. To contact Christopher email - info@oapfortworth.com.

Jada Brazell is a freelance writer who also consults for fashion- and art-based businesses on branding. She has written for the Odessa American, edited for the Texas Senate and RadioShack, and contributed to several magazines and newspapers in Central and South Texas.