Dime A Dozen: Turning Discarded Drug Bags Into Art

Chicago filmmaker Ben Kurstin collected more than 8,000 drug bags in two years and turned them into giant works of art.

Dime A Dozen: Turning Discarded Drug Bags Into Art
Ben Kurstin

Ben Kurstin, a Chicago-based filmmaker and artist, took the same commute to work for years. He would leave his home, walk through a park and then wait for the bus. One day, he noticed an empty drug bag on the ground. As he continued on his path, he started to notice that there were drug bags on the ground everywhere. He decided to pick them up and help clean up the park. His hobby of good intent turned into curiosity, and one day he decided to see how many he could pick up in a day. On that first day in the same park, he picked up around 60 bags.

Kurstin kept up his habit of picking up the bags during his commute. Over two years, he found himself with more than 8,000 of them. He took them home and then cleaned, studied and organized them. He was captivated by the various shapes, sizes and colors, but saddened that people used those same bags to put poison in their bodies.

He decided to create art with the drug bags he had collected. After three years of work, he has completed this dedicated project. "I made the pieces as big as I could, because the problem is big itself," Kurstin said. 

The piece to which he said he's closest is a six-panel picture of Richard Nixon. 

"I'd say that the one my heart is in the most is in the Nixon, because it's 6 feet wide by 8 feet tall, and made up of around 4,000 bags," Kurstin said. "It took so long to do; it's the one that most of me is in."

Other subjects of Kurstin's art include the four seasons, a Playboy bunny, comic book characters and different colors. To check out the entire collection, visit his website at