Nativity scene made of trash makes point about poverty

Daniel Mears
The Detroit News

DETROIT — A life-size Christmas Nativity scene made from garbage and recyclables, opening Wednesday in Michigan, is aimed at illustrating the parallels between the humble conditions Jesus was born into and the extreme poverty nearly 800 million people live in today.

Ann Arbor nonprofit International Samaritan, dedicated to alleviating conditions for people who live near and work in uncontrolled dumpsites, called on Detroit artist Chazz Miller to create the exhibit, titled No Room at the Inn. The installation at 803 N. Main in Ann Arbor will remain on display until Jan. 5.

The manger was built from an old suitcase, a baby’s crib and straws, while the face of baby Jesus is made from paper clay. The three kings are composites from plastic milk bottles, plastic sheeting, newspaper and burlap material, with faces of various materials and found items.

‘Spoons for the ears’: The same is true for the animals populating the scene.

“It was a really fun process,” said Miller. “At first it’s a pig, but when you look at it closer, that’s a bleach bottle, those are spoons for the ears.”

Mike Tenbusch, International Samaritan president, said his travels abroad brought the desperate circumstances of many people into sharp focus.

“Over the last year, I’ve visited our scholarship students who live and work in garbage dump communities in seven nations and what I kept sensing was there was no room for them,” he said.

“Not enough housing, not enough jobs, they don’t have enough room for good schooling, and it really struck me profoundly how much Mary and Joseph had that same sense when they arrived 2,000 years ago,” Tenbusch said, “so we wanted to bring those concepts together and remind people that even in the midst of despair, Jesus is still here.”