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Artist McKay Otto and Hill Country Science Mill Turning Trash to Treasure

Artist Otto McKay will lead a Trash to Treasure workshop June 10 at the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City.

JOHNSON CITY — “What’s this?” It’s a question many of us hear from a parent, spouse, or anyone wandering through our garage or childhood bedroom. I heard it often enough, and usually the conversation went along these lines.

“Are you using it?”

“No, not really. Not now, at least.”

“Why do you have it then?”

“You never know.”

“Never know what?”

“Never know if I’ll need it again.”

“So, when’s the last time you used it?”

“I dunno …”

“Why not just get rid of it?”

“Because …”

“You haven’t used it in who knows when, probably won’t ever use it again. For Pete’s sake, just get rid of it! It’s just trash gathering dust.”

But to me — and to you — it’s a treasure waiting for an artistic hand to make it shine again.

Thankfully, artist McKay Otto has created an outlet for pack rats. He’s holding a Trash to Treasure workshop from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and again from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, June 10, at the Hill Country Science Mill, 101 Lady Bird Lane. It’s for ages 8 and older.

“Trash to Treasure begs the question of the possibilities that can be found in the cross-pollination between art and science, furthering the inquiries as an extension of the idea that art can be made out of any material,” Otto explained.

Participants can bring old toys, recyclables, and unwanted household items. Then, it’s just a matter of Otto showing kids (of all ages) how a little bit of creativity can give these old things new life.

“Through the investigation of the mediums, children of all ages can implore the discarded material for clues as to what they can create and do in the process of discovering what the recyclable material wants,” the artist stated. “The process of repurposing functions as a means of looking at something new and creating an art treasure.”

The experience might change the way you view the world around you. Part of art, after all, is seeing something new in something common.

“Sourcing discarded materials opens connections between many things and huge leaps in logic that transcend all types of language barriers and, released from the constraints of space and time, (reveal) the permeability between this world and the other,” Otto added.

Now, when someone asks, “What is this?” and “Why not just throw it away?”

You can reply, “It’s art in waiting.”

The Trash to Treasure workshops are free with paid admission to the Hill Country Science Mill, which is $10 for adults, $8.50 for ages 3-18, $8 for seniors 65 and older and military members, and free for ages 2 and younger. Space is limited, so email to reserve a spot or two. Austin Creative Reuse is sponsoring the event.

Go to or call (844) 263-6405 for more information.

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