Group introduces locals to ‘upcycling’

By MEGAN HIGGINS/Montana State News

This past January, Anne Hernandez and six Montana State University students established a new non-profit centered on a goal to empower the community through environmental awareness and contribution.

The Human Empowered Arts Program launched this objective during the organization’s debut during the Gallatin Earth Celebration on April 20 and 21.

Hernandez, an adjunct instructor in the College of Business at MSU, founded HEAP with the hopes of providing the community a means of instruction on how to recreate the everyday items that ultimately end up in the local landfill.

Hernandez created art from everyday materials like magazines and cardboard since she was a child. This passion established the basis for HEAP and inspired her to make “upcycling” readily available to anyone in the community.

Hernandez knew she could not create this initiative on her own, and this desire for collaboration ultimately inspired her to enlist the help of student- interns to aid in the foundation of this start up.

“I love bouncing off ideas of other creative and diverse people,” Hernandez said. “That is why I assembled a team of interns from different disciplines including Art, Art Education, Architecture, Business Marketing, Management and Accounting.”

Barbara Kohring, a senior studying marketing at MSU, says she plans to take her experiences of working with HEAP and apply them to her future career.

“It was intriguing working on a mission statement, a first press release and building a website,” said Kohring who plans to continue with the program until she graduates.

Kohring had also been upcycling before interning with HEAP, but she had never realized it until her initial meeting with Hernandez. She went on to say, “Now I am completely obsessed and I plan to upcycle and reuse for the rest of my life.

Hernandez and the interns started in January and have worked non-stop over this past winter to get HEAP off the drawing board floor.

This spring’s interns concluded with the GEC events in April, but this founding group has left HEAP ready for the public offering. With many events coming up in the near future, HEAP will receive new interns each semester with each session culminating towards a single event.

When asked what else she has planned for the future of HEAP, Hernandez responded, “My vision is that the summer internship ends with an event centered on the Sweet Pea festival and the fall internship with a Bozeman holiday season event.

Organizations similar to HEAP can be found throughout the country and the first programs initially started in the 1970’s to promote the steadily decreasing sustainability of the environment. Hernandez says she took cues from the SCRAP projects in  Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., and San Francisco. “But HEAP’s current programs are unique and completely new to Bozeman.”

The goal for HEAP is to open a space where the community can donate and purchase reusable materials, participate in workshops, browse reformed pieces and obtain information about incorporating upcycling into everyday life.

HEAP has several programs up and running in the community at this point including item donations, a kid’s space and the eclectic boutique on top of educational classes for K-12 classrooms with adult workshops to commence once a space has been secured.

HEAP has not landed a space at this point but Hernandez pointed out, “Even without an office or workshop, HEAP programs can start with a regular schedule any time this summer.”

HEAP is also looking to start a partnership with local pawnshops and thrift stores to carry the non-profits’ campaign to, “Think Before You Toss.” The HEAP Cooperative is an effort that would create a map locating the Bozeman businesses and organizations that offer reusable materials and other forms of upcycling instruction.

“Like the recycling station maps, the goal is to distribute this within the community to make the process easier to donate or sell unwanted items. The HEAP Cooperative will reintegrate the upcycling mentality within Bozeman while showcasing the places within the area that could provide assistance,” Hernandez added.

Community members will have the opportunity to locate the maps at the destinations of the businesses involved or on the HEAP website.

During the GEC events, HEAP had the opportunity to display its eclectic boutique to the community and circulate information regarding the organization. HEAP was met with great interest from people of all ages within the community.

“We gained many contacts for future programming and partnerships,” Hernandez said as well as, “Individuals were impressed with the upcycle creativity of the items for sale.”

Michelle Radomiki, who visited the Sustainability Fair, said she was impressed with HEAP’s overall goals and ambitions. “I had no idea HEAP was out there, but I love their concept and where they are striving to get to. In a town like Bozeman, I’m surprised this idea hasn’t happened sooner.”

Others who attended the event had similar  reactions to the visions and goals that encompass the HEAP activities.

Brian Archer, a college student originally from California said, “I’m happy to see this program starting up. I grew up in a community that was very receptive to reusing items that many would consider trash. To notice these events and organizations sprouting up around the country is very encouraging.”

Currently there are several ways interested community members can contribute to HEAP. Sponsorships of K-12 upcycle workshops, donating items, participating in workshops as well as purchasing items from HEAP’s eclectic boutique will all help the organization reach its long term goals.

Community members are also needed for programming partnerships to increase the awareness regarding environmental issues and concerns.

HEAP is looking for a wide variety of items from donators including art supplies, metal and natural materials to name a few. Anything that can be repurposed will help keep unnecessary waste out of the landfill.

With the ongoing green boom in Bozeman and around the country continuing to spread, it comes as no surprise that an organization such as HEAP would emerge from the cracks and work to help make Bozeman a more sustainable city.

More information can be found on HEAPs website, or by contacting Anne Hernandez at

Information on internships with HEAP can be found on their website, and any students interested are encouraged to contact Hernandez.

Edited by Samantha Middlestead 

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