Litter Letter Project Turns Trash Into Art

    The collaborative public art installation kicks off Arts Month with a celebration of the arts and outdoors.

    Arts Month Litter Letter project from 2020
    The Arts Month Litter Letter Project focused on resilience in 2020. Photo by Mike Pach, 3 Peaks Photography.

    Respect will rise as Arts Month 2021 kicks off on Oct. 1. — and we’re not just speaking metaphorically. The actual 6-foot letters R.E.S.P.E.C.T. will be displayed next to America the Beautiful Park as volunteers turn local trash into artistic beauty in the 4th annual Pikes Peak Litter Letter Project.

    The large-scale art installation is a joint effort between the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance (PPORA), Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control & Greenway District, Creek Week and the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. “The Litter Letter Project is quintessential Arts Month because it is intentionally cross-sector, bringing together the arts and outdoor communities,” says Andy Vick, executive director of the Cultural Office. “It completely captures a collaborative spirit to celebrate the arts, outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship.”

    Filling giant letters with trash for Arts Month Litter Letter Project in Colorado Springs
    Filling the giant Litter Letter Project for Arts Month in Colorado Springs. Photo by Mike Pach, 3 Peaks Photography.

    The installation will mark the official beginning of Arts Month 2021 with a dedication ceremony and unveiling at 4 p.m., Oct. 1, just before the start of October First Friday. The letters will be filled with garbage collected by volunteers during Creek Week cleanups, which run Sept. 25 – Oct. 3, then brought together to be displayed through Arts Month. The dedication event is free and open to the public, and it will feature refreshments and live entertainment by local musician Ryan Flores.

    The Litter Letter Project got started locally four years ago as Vick and Becky Leinweber, executive director of PPORA, brainstormed about a way they could bring together the local arts and outdoor communities. “One of the things we all care about is keeping our community pristine and beautiful and a place we love to enjoy,” Leinweber says. “This project helps us to really highlight and bring together the values of stewardship and appreciation of our community, but to do it in a way that’s artistic and creative and different.”

    close up of some cans used for the arts month 2021 litter letter project
    A close-up look at what goes into the 6ft letters. Photo by Mike Pach, 3 Peaks Photography.

    The organizers realized the Litter Letter Project timed perfectly with Creek Week and joined forces with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control & Greenway District. In the past seven years, volunteers have picked up more than 100 tons of trash from Palmer Park to Pueblo and beyond during the annual cleanup campaign, says Alli Schuch, watershed outreach coordinator. Heading into this year’s Creek Week, more than 3,200 volunteers were registered for about 80 cleanup events. Sponsor organizations adopt each litter letter and fill them with trash during their respective Creek Week events.

    “There’s this great cross-pollination that can happen between those folks that are going out to do cleanups and our arts community,” Schuch says. “It’s a really great opportunity to bring these two different parts of the community together.”

    This year’s word RESPECT grew out of an ongoing campaign that PPORA launched early this summer to promote responsible use and good stewardship of local trails and outdoor spaces, especially in the wake of heavy usage during and since the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is an ongoing message about how we can respect the places we enjoy and the people, other users, who are out there.”

    Litter Letter Project spells PRISTINE for Arts Month 2019 in Colorado Springs
    The Litter Letter Project spells PRISTINE for Arts Month 2019. Photo by Mike Pach, 3 Peaks Photography.

    It also helps to be able to reuse litter letter frames from previous years. Each letter is constructed by local public arts nonprofit Concrete Couch. Last year’s theme was RESILIENCE. Preceding years featured PRISTINE and INSPIRE.

    The Litter Letter Project helps to beautify the area both by removing trash from natural areas and waterways and by regenerating it into inspirational art. “You have these huge letters filled with disgusting trash, and then in the background, you have our beautiful Pikes Peak,” Schuch says. “It’s quite a treat for the eye.”

    Organizations sponsoring this year’s letters are the following:

    UpaDowna (R)

    Storybook Brewing (E)

    Tanya Walter & Donna Hatch with ERA Shields (S)

    Matrix Design Group (P)

    Diversified Asset Management (E)

    Girl Scout Troop #42733 (C)

    Mile High Youth Corps (T)

    Organizers of the Litter Letter Project 2020 for Arts Month in Colorado Springs
    Organizers of the 2020 Litter Letter Project celebrate the Arts Month installation. From left: Becky Leinweber (Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance), Angela Seals (Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region), Bill Banks (Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District) and Alli Schuch (Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District). Photo by Mike Pach, 3 Peaks Photography.

    Everyone can get involved though by volunteering an hour or two as part of Creek Week. A complete list of Creek Week events and cleanup locations is available at fountaincreekweek.com. The public is invited to the free dedication ceremony (details below). And you can also show your support for the Litter Letter Project throughout Arts Month by using the hashtag #PikesPeakLitterLetters on your social media to show how you recreate responsibly and RESPECT the outdoors.

    “Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to launch Arts Month each year,” Vick says, “collaborating with great partners, creating a new piece of public art, and leveraging the arts to communicate a powerful message about the importance of environmental stewardship in our community.”


    Celebrate Arts Month 2021 at the Litter Letter Project Dedication

    Friday, Oct. 1 at 4 p.m.

    Look for the giant litter letters just south of America the Beautiful Park, near the Cimarron Street bridge. Enjoy dedication remarks by project partners, plus light snacks and refreshments, and live music by Ryan Flores from 3:30-4:30 p.m. (courtesy of the Curbside Culture program). Then continue your Arts Month celebration at October First Friday Art Walks from 5-8 p.m. along the Avenue Creative Circuit in Downtown Colorado Springs, Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs.

    Get details at ArtsOctober.com.


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