As part of our commitment to inspire all people in our community to explore and create, UpCycle enriches aftercare programs in the City of Alexandria through free, grant-funded outreach programs. One such program, "It's Tinker Time, Creative Aftercare Programs and Materials for Alexandria's Youth," is funded by the Alexandria Fund for Human Services to ensure that children and youth are socially connected, emotionally secure, and culturally competent. The program:
This year, students reused materials to create the letters A-L-E-X-A-N-D-R-I-A that are now displayed in our materials center. The collaborative project highlights to everyone that in Alexandria, materials that are destined for the waste stream can be reused to make something unique and eye-catching. Next time you're at UpCycle, check it out!
UpCycle Creative Reuse Center is pleased to announce a partnership with Shirlington Pediatric Dentistry and our signature program, Tinker Time. Dr. Shwetha Rai shares our emphasis on families, environmentalism, and creativity, and we are honored that she has chosen to support our local nonprofit and mission. With Dr. Rai’s sponsorship, UpCycle will make Tinker Time free to families when it relaunches the popular program at the end of April 2023.
Dr. Rai and her family have been frequent participants in Tinker Time and other UpCycle programs over the years. When they originally discovered the original location on Mt. Vernon Avenue, they felt “immediately inspired” with the idea of creative reuse and incorporated it into their home with an UpCycle-inspired art station that holds various things such as corks, bottle caps, yarn, pine cones etc. Supporting UpCycle and enthusiastically sharing it with her patients at Shirlington Pediatric Dentistry is a natural extension of her family’s passion for creativity. Says Dr. Rai, “I know that I am using my small business to support a great local community program, but really I am just a mom who wants her kids to have a local place that fuels their creativity, and enriches their community. UpCycle is an Alexandria jewel and a part of my community that I am excited to support!”
UpCycle is deeply grateful for Dr. Rai’s support which enables us to invite even more people to engage in creative reuse. We’re excited to grow together with her family and dental patients in the years ahead.
pictured above: (left) Dr. Rai with her husband, Matt, and children Kalyan and Navya; (right) Kaylan and Navya.
Executive Director, Theresa Esterlund, interviewed Dr. Rai about her background and why she wants to support UpCycle.
We’re very excited for this partnership. Tell our community more about why you chose UpCycle.
I love that Upcycle is a local community organization and that it is geared towards art for children, yet also encourages beautification of our community by turning our trash to treasure. I would love to get the word out that there is a great place in our community like this!
My husband, Matt, and I have always tried to be environmentally conscious in our home and community. When we first discovered UpCycle, we loved the idea of taking something that could be trash and turning it into something beautiful.
In addition, art is close to my heart because my mother is an artist, and she has inspired me my whole life to see something different in the ordinary, to find creative ways to make my art projects and to use what I have. My mother is an amazing artist, but her creativity is her greatest strength, and it made my childhood so colorful! She grew up needing to conform, and color inside the lines, and I often wonder what she would have done if a place like UpCycle was in her backyard. I see my mother’s quirks in my daughter, who doesn’t color within the lines, and has the same creative bone. My daughter, Navya, loves to experiment with different art mediums and make her “creations.” I am not sure where art will take her, but I do know that it is places like UpCylce that foster this growth, and that nurturing this creativity in children is important. I bring my children here to shop for art supplies and have brought my mother too, all of them are like kids in a candy shop and exhibit little self control!
How is art integrated in your dental practice?
Dentistry has always gone hand in hand with art. You will find many dentists who appreciate or make their own art from painting to sculptures and so forth. We are currently working on murals in the office that are fun nods to famous artists or art works. My favorite is the Andy Warhol inspired pop art wall of my kids. My goal with art is to create a space that is fun and interesting to visit, and that my patients will enjoy coming and leave inspired.
Why do you love UpCycle’s Tinker Time?
Tinker time is a LOT of fun! Tinker Time gives kids the space and material to really unlock their creativity. We actually first discovered it with my son, Kaylan, who enjoys building things and using his hands as well. It was fun to meet other people, and also see that everything can be turned into something new and interesting. At home, my kids collect materials for our UpCycle-inspired art station and use them in ongoing projects.
What do you enjoy most about working with children?
When I first started dental school, I did not realize that I enjoyed working with kids right away. I had worked in a pediatric dental office prior to dental school and loved it, but it took years of working with adults to realize that I preferred working with kids. Children make my work a lot of fun, and it doesn’t feel like I am “working.” They have great stories and points of view. They keep every day fresh. And I love that by encouraging good dental habits early, I have the opportunity to set up that foundation and positively impact their entire lives.
For this partnership, you’ll begin by donating a portion of new patient’s fees to UpCycle. What would you like your new and future patients to know about UpCycle?
Anyone can find something useful at UpCycle, and they can breathe new life and beauty into old objects! I met a lovely lady there who told me that she came to UpCycle to get inspired, and when she didn’t have an idea of what to do with her photography, she would look around to see what would get her creative juices flowing. She used the supplies she found to dress up her models, and took such captivating pictures of their very original look. I want to help spread the word about UpCycle, because I know that if they give it a chance, adults as well as kids will leave with a new project to express their creativity.
About UpCycle Creative Reuse Tinker Time
A signature program, Tinker Time is designed to inspire playfulness and creative expression in families with childrens age 3 and older. In this open exploration, you can access a unique collection of materials for inspiration as you create something of your own. Tinker Time is an unstructured time without a specific project. An adult must accompany children ages 12 and younger. Tinker Time has been on a short hiatus as we’ve been hiring new staff and reorganizing our studio space, but we’re relaunching the program at the end of April. Visit our website, join our newsletter, and follow on social media for details.
About Shirlington Pediatric Dentistry
Dr. Shwetha Rai and the kindhearted team at Shirlington Pediatric Dentistry foster a future of bright smiles and stellar habits for kids in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and the Northern Virginia area. Their mission is to provide a cheerful, inviting dental home where you and your child can feel truly known and valued by their dedicated team. Through fun-filled appointments, engaging education, and our preventive, personalized approach, they want to watch your kiddo grow and graduate from their care with lifelong oral care skills. With a warm, modern atmosphere and educational approach, they’re spurring on a fresh sense of wonder and optimism when it comes to visiting the dentist. They love building trustworthy, meaningful friendships with the families in their care. From your newborn bundle of joy to your college-bound teen, they’re honored to walk alongside you and your child with dedicated, compassionate guidance as they grow.
Shirlington Pediatric Dentistry is located at 2700 S Quincy St Ste 305 Arlington, VA 22206.
Are you a business or individual interested in supporting our programing? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rachel Witt is UpCycle’s Shop Manager and has been with us for 2 ½ years. She was essential in keeping UpCycle running throughout the pandemic and has been instrumental in transforming our shop first when we moved in March of 2022 and again now as we redesign the space for growth. Rachel is an Alexandria native who, other than college and grad school, has lived here her entire life. She is a proud mom of two “wonderful boys,” Liam (10) and Toby (7), who are frequent UpCycle participants and occasional shop helpers. (Rachel also hand-painted the sign outside our door!)
When did you begin working with UpCycle?
I started in the fall of 2020 when the Kennedy Center was shut down due to the pandemic. In addition to my work at UpCycle, I am the Properties Coordinator for Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center.
You are also an artist. Tell us about your work.
I have a Masters of Fine Arts in scenic design and have worked locally as a freelance scenic painter, education and marketing director for MVCCT, BBQ catering for Rockland's, and pottery instructor and artist. I am a teacher and founding member of Alexandria Clay Co-Op, a local pottery studio with over 100 members. I was just recently juried into the Scope Gallery at the Torpedo Factory and my first show with them will be in May.
What’s your favorite reusable material? Why?
There are so many options! If I had to choose just one, I would probably say old photographic slides. I love the glimpses into people's lives that they give you and have had fun turning them into lampshades.
What do you love most about working at UpCycle?
I love finding ways to organize and arrange the chaotic mix of items that come into the shop in such a manner that it inspires people to look at them in ways they may not have before. I also love being one of the first to see what comes in as donations and helping people find new and creative uses for the unlikeliest of items.
Share a fun UpCycle memory.
What comes to mind first is a huge donation of yarn we had come in a couple of months ago. I received an email stating they had 1600 skeins of yarn to bring in and my mind started to reel. How much space does 1600 skeins of yarn take up? Where were we going to put it? How were we going to process it? Then they sent the most amazing spreadsheet, where they had listed every piece of information possible about every skein in the donation. It was beautiful. I mentioned the donation to one of the pottery studio colleagues who is also a knitter and the next day she had a small army set to come in and help us sort, bag, and price everything. The lasting impression of this donation was one of community, a willingness to help and love for the material which I believe is at the heart of UpCycle.
What’s your (current) favorite book?
I just finished listening to Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and was blown away by both the narrative and the narration. It is such a beautiful examination of how to live in a symbiotic relationship with the earth. The author also has a lovely voice and it was a joy to listen to.
If you could have only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
This is an impossible question as I strongly feel that variety is the spice of life! If I had to pick one thing it would probably be pizza because it comes in so many different shapes and types and you could always vary toppings (is that cheating?).
What’s your superpower?
Problem solving. I love turning a problem over and trying to look at it from as many points of view as necessary to find a solution and then trying to poke holes in it to make sure it is sound. I think anything is solvable given enough time, you just have to be willing to step outside the box.
UpCycle Creative Reuse Center is excited to announce our participation in Spring2Action 2023! Mark your calendar for April 26, Alexandria’s biggest giving day.
Spring2ACTion, hosted by ACT for Alexandria, is a 24-hour fundraising event that gives Alexandria nonprofits the opportunity to reach new donors and raise funds for their organizations. Last year, UpCycle raised just over $10,000, and our goal for 2023 is $12,000.
“We are so proud of how we’ve not only kept serving people in our local community throughout and beyond the pandemic but also how much we’re growing,” says Executive Director Theresa Esterlund. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, last year’s Spring2Action helped us move into a much larger space on Eisenhower Avenue and reintroduced our creative reuse programming for schools, families, and adults. This year, we’re reorganizing our space to allow us to accommodate even bigger groups and make our donation and shopping experiences better. From weekly Tinker Time for all ages to preschool Materials Playgroup to after school programs to adult creative art workshops, we can't wait to begin engaging in creative conservation with you in our larger space.
While we value donations every day, gifts on April 26 are essential to our fundraising efforts because of the generosity of matching grants and the support from ACT for Alexandria. On this special day of giving, we are honored to join together with other Alexandria community nonprofits that make Alexandria a vibrant place for everyone.
We are excited to spring forward as we offer even more resources and community engagement opportunities in 2023 - and beyond. As one member of UpCycle’s community described our Materials Center, "What a wonderful treasure trove of craft and art supplies! We had a fantastic shopping experience and the kids had so much fun filling a bag with all their treasures to craft with at home. Can't wait to come back!"
Sherri has been teaching camps and birthday parties with UpCycle Creative Reuse Center since 2022. She has 15 years experience as a preschool teacher and process art preschool teacher. Sherri also has a BA in Interior Design and an MA in Computer Graphics. She is married with two adult children (ages 21 and 18).
Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in an Airforce family. I was born in Turkey, lived in Massachusetts, New Mexico, Greece, Germany, England, Maryland, Florida, and Louisiana before getting married and moving to Virginia. I love being outdoors and photographing or picking up amazing objects I find in nature. I also enjoy reading novels, especially historical fiction and mysteries, and traveling to see new places.
What do you love most about teaching at UpCycle?
Working with many young artists from a variety of backgrounds.
What are you most excited about for this year’s summer camp at UpCycle?
I’m looking forward to creating with young artists for 5 days in a row and having the abundant time to spend on art making with them.
Share a fun UpCycle memory.
We wrapped yarn dipped in glue around balloons and let it dry overnight. The next day everyone was so excited to pop the balloons and see our balloon shaped sculptures. Instead of holding its shape, the yarn slowly collapsed inward, which wasn't what we expected but was interesting all the same.
What’s your favorite reusable material? Why?
Cardboard - it can be used for so many things! It’s a surface to paint on, can become a sculpture, you cut into pieces for printmaking or cut and hang for mobiles…and so much more.
If you could have only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
What’s your (current) favorite book?
When you Wonder, You're Learning: Mister Rogers' Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids by Gregg Behr and Ryan Rydzewski
What’s your superpower?
Visual-spatial understanding - I'm really good and fast at solving puzzles and always draw out what I am thinking.
UpCycle Creative Reuse Center is thrilled to announce the appointment of our new Executive Director, Theresa Esterlund. Theresa’s professional career spans 30 years as a leader and educator at the Smithsonian Institution, private museums, art centers, and public and private schools.
"Theresa’s background in art and museum education and her commitment to building community through creativity are a perfect fit for our organization,” said UpCycle's Board Chair Kelley Organek. “We’re confident that under Theresa’s leadership, UpCycle will continue to flourish.”
Theresa is deeply committed to creativity, community, collaboration, and mindfulness; ideals that are embedded in UpCycle's mission and values. “This is an exciting time for UpCycle,” Theresa said. “I’m looking forward to bringing my own creativity and energy to this inspiring organization.”
During her career, Theresa has led programming and interpretive teams at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art and the National Museum of American History, the Textile Museum, and the National Building Museum.
As a museum educator, Theresa created object-based experiences and materials for various audiences, including exhibition interpretation, tours, family programs, school programs, teacher workshops, and interactive web experiences. She also oversaw museum volunteers and visitor services teams. Theresa currently teaches a Museum Studies graduate course on museum learning at George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design.
Preceding her museum career, Theresa taught middle and high school students with emotional/behavioral challenges and/or learning differences. Since 2012, she has taught yoga, mindful movement, and meditation. Theresa is Letterpress Associate at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, where she supports the center by maintaining the presses and teaching classes in letterpress. Her collage artwork has been featured in numerous juried shows, including Smithsonian staff art shows, and she designs and produces stationery and paper goods under her brand Open to Being™.
Theresa holds an undergraduate degree in Biology and a Masters in Education from the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
UpCycle Creative Reuse Center inspires all people to explore and create by engaging our community in art-making experiences with reuse materials. UpCycle is located at 5380-D Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, Virginia, 22304. For more information visit www.upcyclecrc.org.
As you know, at UpCycle, we rethink the notion of waste, collecting cast-offs from our community to serve as creative art materials. Our inventory of materials is affordable, dynamic and changes constantly, providing ever-changing inspiration and outlets for creativity. But the Coronavirus outbreak has put UpCycle's finances at risk.
During Spring2ACTion this year, UpCycle needs to raise at least $7500 to cover the cost of lost programming. Achieving this goal will mean that we can keep offering you what you value most – bringing together creativity and conservation for everyone in the community.
What can you do to help? Give anytime until Wednesday April 15! Every dollar will make a difference. Here’s the link to give: https://www.spring2action.org/organizations/upcycle-creative-reuse-center.
As you can see below, we do a lot with just a little budget. We love bringing creativity and conservation together, and we've had some great successes over the past year.
Thanks so much for your support – I’m looking forward to the time when we can meet again at UpCycle!
Become a Member of UpCycle Creative Reuse Center’s Board of Directors. We're looking for a few energetic, involved and positive folks to help us guide the organization's growth. Please contact the Director, Lexi Keogh, at email@example.com if you are interested!
A full description of what's involved follows:
UpCycle Creative Reuse Center is an Alexandria, Virginia based non-profit that connects creativity and conservation by providing a resource center for reuse materials and a creative making space for the community. At UpCycle, we rethink the traditional notion of waste by collecting cast-offs from our community to serve as creative materials.
UpCycle is currently recruiting members for our Board of Directors and is looking for people who are interested in the connection between conservation and creativity and has expertise in an area that will help UpCycle succeed. The Board of Directors meets monthly.
For more information, please UpCycle’s website at www.UpCycleCRC.org.
The Board will support the work of UpCycle Creative Reuse Center and provide mission-based leadership and strategic governance. While day-to-day operations are led by UpCycle’s executive director (ED), the Board-ED relationship is a partnership, and the appropriate involvement of the Board is both critical and expected.
Specific Board Member responsibilities include:
Leadership, governance and oversight
UpCycle Board Members will consider UpCycle a philanthropic priority and make annual gifts that reflect that priority. So that UpCycle can credibly solicit contributions from foundations, organizations, and individuals, UpCycle expects to have all of Board Members make an annual contribution that is commensurate with their capacity.
UpCycle’s Board Members will serve a one-year term. Board meetings are held monthly and committee meetings will be held in coordination with full board meetings.
This is an extraordinary opportunity for an individual who is passionate about UpCycle’s mission and who has a track record of board leadership. Selected Board Members will have achieved leadership stature in business, government, philanthropy, or the nonprofit sector. His/her accomplishments will allow him/her to attract other well-qualified, high-performing Board Members.
Ideal candidates will have a combination of the following qualifications:
Service on UpCycle’s Board of Directors is without remuneration, except for administrative support and minimal costs that relate to Board Members’ duties.
UpCycle Creative Reuse Center announces a new director, Lexi Keogh.
Keogh has more than 20 years of non-profit experience in communications, annual, corporate and private foundation fundraising, membership, and special events.
She most recently served as the Development Director at Alice Ferguson Foundation in Accokeeek, Maryland. Prior to leading the environmental education nonprofit’s fundraising efforts, she spent 15 years with the Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, DC. Her roles included Acting Executive Director, Deputy Director, and Development and Communications Directors. She has extensive nonprofit experience with an eye towards implementing organizational sustainability in all aspects of a nonprofit -- from fundraising to organizational development and programs.
UpCycle’s Board Chair, Lesley Harris says, "We welcome Lexi’s extensive and diverse background in nonprofit management, communications and fundraising. We are at a critical time in the mission of UpCycle as we just celebrated our five year anniversary with more than 250 members. Lexi will play an active role in strengthening our partnerships and enhancing our visibility in the community. We are very excited to have her on board.”
Keogh received her Bachelor’s from Georgetown University and Master's in International Relations and Communications from Boston University. She is an avid recycler, crafter and upcycler living in Alexandria with her husband and two children. Keogh finds UpCycle inspiring because it gives people an easy space to explore their creativity without constraints.
Keogh is the first Director since local Alexandrians, Susan Miranda and Kelley Organek founded UpCycle in 2013. Both Miranda and Organek continue to serve on UpCycle’s Board.
UpCycle is a place where people of all ages have the opportunity to experiment, create and play with a variety of media for artistic use and expression. In 2017, UpCycle provided direct programming for Alexandria residents and engaged the immediate community and beyond in more than 5,000 hours of creative reuse arts programming. Our programs, events and outreach include:
Materials Playgroup - Exploratory and sensory activities for children ages 1.5-4 years old. Children explore clay, painting, light and shadow and MANY ways to manipulate and play with materials.
Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, children and their families participate in art experiences for a minimal fee. Participants explore our unique collection of materials, experiment with possible uses and create original works of art.
After School Enrichment Programs
Tinker Time at Casa Chirilagua, the ACPS LINK Club at Brent Place and for Jefferson-Houston School.
Scouts, School Groups and Parties
Children have opportunities to explore the properties of materials, make plans for their use and create with reuse materials.
Participants build upon experiences and create final products over a series of days. Children experiment and try techniques with great satisfaction. In 2017 we teamed up with Local Motion Project for three weeks of Art in Motion camp.
Workshops for educators incorporate reuse arts materials into developmentally appropriate classroom activities that promote cognitive and motor development. Teachers learn how clay, observational drawing, light and shadow, paint mixing, wire work, sewing and sensory experiences can enhance their learning environments.
Collaborating with other organizations connects our community and introduces new audiences to UpCycle’s mission. Events shown with Arts on the Horizon and First Night with the AWLA.
Outreach in ACPS
Programs demonstrate to teachers and students that waste materials can be a resource for developing skills, scientific observations and artistic expression.
Creative reuse stations at the Maker Faire, Alexandria's Earth Day Event, Art on the Avenue and Arts Safari at the Torpedo Factory.
Our Spring2ACTion fundraising campaign included a pizza box art contest with Cafe Pizziaolo and St. Elmo's Coffee Pub. Season’s Treatings is our annual holiday party where we reuse Halloween candy to decorate gingerbread houses.