DENMARK — The Transfer Station in this tiny town is getting an artist-in-residence.

Actually, it’s getting up to eight — one per season for the next two years — all anxious to be trash-inspired.

On Friday, the Denmark Arts Center won a $25,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant toward an upcoming $50,000 to $100,000 project called “Something Rotten in Denmark” that will pay artists to create art from garbage at the popular town dump.

“I’m very open to the idea that the art that might result might be a series of poems that are about the dump,” said Denmark Arts Center artistic director Jamie Hook.

“The dump in winter can be a very lovely place, a very strange and beautiful place,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe we’ll have someone who makes an ice castle out there and it melts as soon as spring happens, and that would be a wonderful thing.”

Hook said the idea was born from station attendant Don Legare’s impromptu collection of cast-out art: pictures of pirate ships, landscapes and clowns he’d grabbed out of the trash after owners drove away.

In a pilot project two years ago, artists from Holland, with funding from the Dutch government and the Maine Community Foundation, spent two weeks at the dump making a mural of two leopards on the side of Legare’s attendant building. They used mica picked up off the ground.

Last year, spending close to a month there, Portland artist Toni Jo Coppa made several sculptures including a chicken-wire bride and “a beautiful piece of old wood with just tons of nails banged into it,” Hook said.

“It was great that it went from a little, tiny, funny idea to a community-funded project and now it’s gotten this quite fancy NEA grant,” he said.

Denmark, with a year-round population of 1,128 people and a summer population three times that, has no trash pickup. The Transfer Station is the great equalizer.

“It is the true crossroads of the town,” said Hook, who grew up in Denmark and splits his time between here and New York. “It’s where absolutely everybody goes. Running the arts center, I quickly learned the most important place to get a poster up is the dump.”

“Something Rotten” will put out a national call for proposals in October and likely host its first artist at the dump next March, Hook said.

He hopes to welcome each one to town with a large dinner and get them into local schools to talk to children, drawing the community further into the project. He’s still fundraising to meet the financial goal.

Each artist’s work will remain on display at the dump for up to a year. Hook hopes to break down barriers about who makes art and what they make it out of.

“You get into this place where you think that art is made by people who aren’t like us, (in) places that aren’t like the places we go,” he said. “It’s really about dissolving boundaries and showing that art really is for everybody and can be everywhere.”

An artist himself, this particular Transfer Station is a special place. As a kid, it’s where he found his first cat on a trip to the dump with his family.

“We took him home and named him Dumpling,” Hook said. “He was a great cat for years and years and years. So the dump is really woven into my blood as this great part of Denmark.”

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