A local artist is turning trash into street art to make a statement about littering.
Landon Beamer is tired of seeing cigarette butts all over the ground. The 26-year-old art director has witnessed the annoying stubs all over the U.S.
"In every place I’ve ever lived, I’ve noticed how people smoke outside and rarely care about where their butts end up," Beamer told GoMN. "Some people are great about disposing them in a bin but a lot of people are negligent."
Beamer says he "gets it" – cigarette butts are small and maybe people don't think much of throwing a little piece of trash on the ground.
But after doing a bit of research, he learned that they're not biodegradable, and when you add them all up, there's over 1.7 billion pounds tossed around the U.S. each year – making cigarette butts the most littered item in America and across the globe.
Plus, butts are not just making America dirty – Beamer found that they can have lasting effects on the environment.
"Parts of the cigs never degrade and the chemicals can negatively mix with the environment," he stated.
Wanting to find a unique way to address the problem, Beamer, who currently works for an ad agency in Minneapolis, got an idea to create street art using found cigarette butts.
About six months ago, Beamer started working on the project, which he has dubbed "Butts out of Butts."
Butts out of Butts
The art is pretty self-explanatory.
Beamer collects used cigarette butts, colors the smoky nubs with paint to "give them a brighter presence," and shapes them into various butt designs.
He incorporates pop culture references to get attention from passersby.
"I knew I wanted to combine humor and facts to help educate people," he told GoMN.
The bright, comical installations are hard to miss. You'll find "Purple Drain," a Prince-inspired butt, outside of First Avenue night club, “Oscar the Grouch’s Can” on a metal garbage can near St. Anthony Main, and the ornamental “Pa Rump Bum Bum Bum” near Target Field.
All of the art is shared on the Butts out of Butts Instagram page, which has 40 followers and counting. Fans include Minneapolis street artist Mows, who puts up little "mouse doors" all over the city.
The butt installations are just around the Twin Cities for now, but Beamer's goal is to expand to more cities as the project develops.
"It’s a good opportunity to think of some other references and clever places to drop a butt or two," he said.
Beamer says this is his first time creating street art, but that it definitely won't be his last.
GoMN talked butts, Prince, and street art with Beamer to learn a bit more about his current project.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. My name is Landon Beamer and I’m a 26-year-old working as an art director for an ad agency in Minneapolis. Prior to Minnesota I grew up in Seattle before achieving my college degree on the East Coast. Living on the West Coast, the East Coast, and now the Midwest, I've see this as an issue everywhere. If I come across something that bothers me, I try to be vocal and change it.
Why do you want to make a statement about cigarette butts? This project is not about judging people who smoke or convincing them to stop. It’s about taking an object that’s seen everyday and making people see it differently.
Maybe this will even help some people realize just how many butts there are scattered around them and think about how they can negatively impact the environment. I believe everyone has the right to make their own decisions but that right is lost when they fail to recognize how their actions could impact others.
Why make butts? I used butts because butts are funny and they are an easily identifiable body part. Additionally, everyone has a unique butt so it made sense to formulate exclusive names for each.
Where do you find the butts? The cigarette butts are all found on the street or collected from bars & breweries. It’s gross but I wear gloves for obvious reasons. I’m proud I’m able to collect trash and turn it into something else while also raising awareness.
What information is on the little tags attached to the butts? On the front, there’s a relatable title that pays a nod to pop culture in some way. There’s also a small call to action to visit the Instagram account and see the entire gallery.
This campaign is mainly showcased on Instagram because it seemed like a proper medium to use. On the back of the cards, there’s a pattern made out of illustrated butts.
Do you have a favorite butt so far? Right now, my favorites are the "Purple Drain" and the "Duff on Hilary Duff." Since I moved to Minneapolis last August, I've seen how much influence Prince has on this community. Playing off Prince's popularity was fitting because he's recognizable more now than ever.
The Duff on Hilary Duff is another favorite of mine because it's obscure and I think it catches people off guard.