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Local mom becomes professional artist through her 'trash art'

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Posted at 5:29 PM, Jun 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 09:17:54-04

DENVER — There’s a saying about trash and treasure. There isn’t one about trash and art, but Heidi Calega might just change that.

“I really don’t know what you would call this,” Heidi said, standing over her craft table.

With stay at home orders and quarantines, the former elementary school teacher decided to clean out the closets of her home.

“So I had all kinds of [trinkets] from my teaching days,” she said. “And I couldn’t bear to part with it.”

So the mom of two took a more creative route.

“You can make something interesting out of just about anything,” she explained.

And by "anything," she means making collages or mosaics out of literally anything.

“Beads, buttons, necklaces, little plastic toys,” she listed off. “I have pieces of dolls here like vintage dolls, army men, bottle caps.”

In a word, Heidi called it “trash.”

“I mean this is all things people have discarded. None of this is new,” she said.

She mainly does portraits, turning litter into someone’s likeness.

“Pretty much anything you can imagine is in here,” she said.

She’s made portraits of her family members, friends, Frida Kahlo, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, and more.

“It’s kind of amazing to me that I was able to do this. This is trash!” she said with a laugh.

Heidi explained how it didn’t take long for her to nearly run out of materials, and how a post on NextDoor delivered.

“I got such an incredible outpouring. I had bags and bags of things donated, left at my doorstep,” she said.

That post, which included a picture of her artwork, also got the attention of the right people. Heidi was able to meet with the Next Gallery in Denver, and now has one of her pieces on display there, along with a full show of her trash art coming in October.

“I never expected that. I’m really humbled and thrilled and it’s so much more rewarding than I ever expected it to be,” she said.