Acrylic alchemy brings recalled toys 

Thomas the Tank Engine, Polly Pocket and Soldier Bear, rise, rise from your premature graves! Doug Arnholter, an environmental artist based out of Broad Ripple Art and Design, wants to rescue recalled toys from the landfill, in order to make new sculptures and toys from their amalgamated remains.

He calls the project EFFORT: Environmentally Friendly (Formerly Objectionable) Recalled Toys. And he will need the efforts of the community to lift the project off the ground. Arnholter seeks donations of any recently recalled toys. (Visit for a list of recalls going back to 1975.) You can drop off toys at donation boxes located around the city, including at Broad Ripple Art and Design, or Arnholter can even drop by your house to pick them up. He wants only recalled toys for this project, though.

Once he has collected enough toys, Arnholter will encase them in clear acrylic, rendering them safe. He will then mold Polly and Soldier Bear into colorful balls, tubes or anything that a child can climb around and play on. The first batch of toys and sculptures will be donated to local charitable organizations, while later productions may turn into furniture or public art projects.

Arnholter was mulling over current events when he saw an opportunity in adversity. “It struck me that there’s always recalled toys around the area, and they’re just going to the landfill,” Arnholter says. “It’s kind of how we think as a culture, that we just throw it away or go bury it or try to make it disappear, and I’d rather see it come back to life and become something positive.”

According to Arnholter, encapsulating the toys in acrylic will far exceed federal regulations for safe treatment of lead — “maybe rat babies might have a problem if they chew through them, but I think everyone else will be OK.” He is currently in dialogue with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which has yet to take an official position on the project, largely because of its novelty, Arnholter believes. Toys R Us representatives have also demurred thus far, although Arnholter dreams that the corporate world would take the lead themselves: “They could get some good PR out of doing something positive with these toys.”

The EFFORT project is part of a larger plan for Arnholter, one that has coalesced since the founding of Broad Ripple Art and Design with his partner Teri Barnett in October 2006. “We could make anything here,” Arnholter says of his gallery. “If somebody came to us tomorrow and said, ‘We’d like to make a new Statue of Liberty,’ we actually have the resources and the connections to do that.”

Visit or call 317-373-0472 for more information.

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Scott Shoger staggered up to NUVO's door one summer afternoon, a little drunk, poor and crazy-haired, muttering about future Mayor Ballard. He was taken in, hosed down, given NUVO-emblazoned clothes to wear and allowed to work in exchange for food and bylines. Refusing to leave the premises, he was hired on as... more

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