Sorting dusty housewares is not usually my idea of a stimulating evening out on the town. However, I was really glad that we signed up to help out at Materials for the Arts (MFTA), because it gave me a unique glimpse into an unusual organization. This is the most colorful and crafty warehouse I have ever seen. You snake through corridors lined with murals until you get to the entrance pictured above. Inside the large warehouse are aisle after aisle of arts, crafts, and miscellaneous supplies waiting to be picked by a needy local arts group.
As a reuse organization, MFTA is hoping to keep things out of the landfills and extend the supply chain for these goods to include a second life as art. Earlier that week, we actually witnessed the fruits of MFTA labor without realizing it. Community gathering points such as the Socrates Sculpture Garden are where these supplies end up. Who knows, the housewares we sorted could serve as props in the next Amas Musical Theater project. I am a big fan of thrift shops and recycling, but making supplies available for reuse in art projects gets to a whole new level. Artists are so inventive that they could find a use for just about anything! I considered that as I put chipped pottery on the shelves, remembering the local jeweler in British Columbia who was featuring broken pottery necklaces.
As Jim, the Volunteer Coordinator at MFTA put it on their blog,
Last night something special happened in the MFTA warehouse after we closed for the day. Bins half-full were emptied only to be refilled anew; shelves were cleared and restocked with household and craft items; fabric was gathered up to be folded and displayed on shelves; and after so much and more, the floors were swept of any remaining debris.
When the staff arrived in the morning, they found the front of the warehouse better organized and with even more room for the new donations that have been pouring in over the last few weeks. How is it that such a dramatic change can take place within 2 hours of volunteerism every month? In short: New York Cares.
I am so glad we could join the New York Cares crew to be some of the magical elves that keep Materials for the Arts going.