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Student in John Powers' Intermediate and Advanced Sculpture combs through metal scraps at a local steel mill.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

That is the message John Powers, associate professor in the School of Art, delivered to students in his Intermediate and Advanced Sculpture class in January as they combed through metal scraps at a local steel mill.

The students used the materials they collected to make sculptures for the sixth annual “The Art of Recycling,” exhibition, which runs through April 21 at the Knoxville Convention Center.

“The exhibition is a great opportunity to have a dialogue with the public about what things do and don’t have value and why,” Powers said. “It’s also allowing our students to gain professional experience outside of the art school bubble.”

As they brought their sculptures to fruition, the students had to overcome such hurdles as learning new tools, cleaning materials in order to weld properly, and meeting a strict deadline to display at least one piece in a public venue.

“This was very new for me,” said Dylan Bagnasco, a master’s degree student in landscape architecture.

Influenced by primitive abstract art, Bagnasco’s piece required using welding tools and methods that were new to him, which could serve him in a future career.

“I wanted to create something that uses underrated materials to make people feel something,” Bagnasco said. “Incorporating this kind of art into public spaces, like a garden, is something that directly applies to the jobs I’m looking at as a landscape architect.”

This project was particularly relevant to Kristina Key, a second-year printmaking student.

“This kind of work is what I see going forward toward the next step in my career,” Key said. “It makes me consider ways to make printmaking more sustainable.”

Key’s piece was awarded Juror’s Choice by local artist Preston Farabow, a 1992 UT alumnus.

The Art of Recycling exhibition celebrates National Recycling Month in April. Exhibition partners include Dogwood Arts, which donated passes to the Rhythm and Blooms Festival as a prize.


Brian Canever (865-974-0937,

Ellen Orner (865-974-3195,