Meet the man behind the recycled art on 9 Mile in Oak Park

(WXYZ) – When most people see a discarded piece of plastic, Dale Teachout sees potential.

“I saw these free materials there that I could either build from the structure or make shapes out of something that was imitated that was realistic,” Teachout said.

The Oak Park resident has been giving new life to the trash he’s found on the side of the road through his art for years.

“You can’t always get what you want from the sidewalk, but usually you can,” he said.

Teachout has said in the past that he made things for himself or for a small group of artists – until a new opportunity arose, a chance to exhibit his work outdoors, in his town of Oak Park.

“Now…I have to think about the audience and I think I want it to be good for the audience,” he said.

His art was selected for the Nine Mile Redesign project, which aims to revitalize the hallway and mark a new beginning for Oak Park.

“What we loved about Mr. Teachout’s art is that he was an Oak Park resident. It’s unique, it’s distinguished, it’s something you really don’t see in the area,” said Oak Park City Council member Shaun Whitehead.

And that’s a big problem for the city.

“This is the very first public art in the city’s history, so we’re thrilled with it,” Whitehead said.

The Earth Girl installation and basketball player sculpture, Teachout hopes, will draw people in and keep them coming back.

“They kind of have to explore, and then they want to come back and maybe check again,” Teachout said.

There are surprises in art – if you just stop to look. And a message to ponder.

“There’s all these building materials around us. So if people would just go into their garages and tinker around, they’d find…unbelievable things,” he said.

And in Oak Park, the push continues for more art in public spaces.

“Our goals are, we can’t have enough public art, we can’t have enough artists involved in our community. And again, we want to shape improving the sense of place and the quality of life in the built environment here,” said Oak Park City Manager Erik Tungate.

Oak Park leaders say they hope to work cooperatively across communities to spark more interest in public art.

And if you’re a local artist who wants to publicize your work, the city manager says his door is always open.

Teachout, who lives near his work, said he will continue to tinker with his pieces, bringing beauty to the area in unexpected ways.

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