Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Exploring All Thrifty States: Jenna's Excellent Adventure

We've all had those moments when we hear about a product, project, or idea that someone else has put out into the world and we think, "Geez, why didn't I think of that?!?" I had just such a moment recently, whilst reading a Washington Post article on the creative Jenna Isaacson Pfeuller.  Jenna's idea was born of necessity, as she shopped in thrift stores during a period of unemployment. A photographer with fond childhood memories of trips to thrift stores with her grandfather, she began taking photos of the stores she shopped at during her economic dry spell. This lead to a Kickstarter campaign and a partnership with Goodwill Industries, to document American culture through visits to thrift stores in every state--a project aptly titled "All Thrifty States."  What a fabulous, fun idea! I'm so jealous. Not of the unemployment (which is thankfully over), but of having such a bold, brilliant idea, and fearlessly following through. And of all the cool thrift store finds, of course.

Check out her web site, complete with slideshow at http://www.allthriftystates.com/. Although the "Stores We Hit" page implies that there are still several states left to go, the Washington Post article and slideshow testify to the fact that she has visited shops in the lower 48, with only Hawaii and Alaska remaining. Way to go, Jenna.

I think this would be such an interesting project to do with students of all ages--to visit local thrift stores and create a photo essay of the local community by documenting the discards and donations. Also, consider all the different types of stores and activities that might fall into the "thrift store" category. Sure, there's the local Goodwill and similar stores that sell reclaimed items for a cause, but what of used book stores, materials for the arts shops, consignment shops, antique malls, vintage vinyl vendors, etc.? What about the cadre of local garage sales? Does your area have a set of homes that seem to be in perpetual yard sale mode? And what about the online reuse landscape that spans eBay, Etsy, Freecycle, Craigslist, etc.?

I've written before about artists HA Schult and Chris Jordan, whose work reflects our society through what we throw away. Jenna's work, and the spin-off student project I've suggested, are a different way to paint a similar picture, showing who we are by what we cast aside. But the view is slightly different, for in thrift stores and the like, we see what we choose not to keep, but cannot quite let go of; what we no longer value, but which we believe will be of value to someone else. Why don't we see everything as having some value, to someone, somewhere?

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