By: Daniel Flores
As a full-time art teacher, I decided to take a trip to New York City during my Spring Break. As an art enthusiast, I wanted to see all the remarkable museums, architecture and design New York has to offer.
Having been a volunteer and now an educator for Spare Parts—whose mission is to advance reuse education through the arts—I’m always looking for new reuse ideas for art projects. In New York City, Materials for the Arts (MFTA) is the place to go! The Executive Director of Spare Parts Mary Elizabeth Cantú helped set up a ‘meet and greet’ with MFTA Director Harriet Taub.
MFTA is a very large building. When I first walked in, I got the sense it was a warehouse in a previous life. Up the elevator and into the entrance you see the Material for the Arts welcome sign.
Entering the office space, I was welcomed by one of the educators with a warm and friendly handshake. I received the grand tour of this magnificent space. Before stepping inside the impressive shop area of donated reusable items, you walk through the hallway of MFTA’s resident artists’ extraordinary work. All the exhibited works are created using reusable and re-purposed materials.
You then enter a secured door into the shop area, imagine a Costco or Sam’s but on a slightly smaller scale. All items are so organized and placed in a way unlike anything I’ve seen before. These items aren’t your regular paints and brushes, but categorized as books, office items, furniture, plastics, metals, etc. The books are categorized into fiction and nonfiction. Imagine walking into a huge Michael’s or a Hobby Lobby store. MFTA has creative displays at the front end of the aisles demonstrating various imaginative to give these materials a new life.
These displays and donated items are just a little bit of what you get to see from this outstanding facility. After the tour, I learned there is MFTA programming. MFTA offers ‘make and; take classes’ to surrounding schools. I was excited to see the educators in action. They are teaching New York’s young minds about the importance of reuse.
As an art educator, sometimes I think we forget, and need to be reminded—it’s not all about markers and crayons. MFTA is huge benefit for the City of New York. As a team member of Spare Parts, we are always looking for and learning new ways to teach our children, teens and the young at heart, how to use these items that might be forgotten or even thrown away. Visiting MFTA was important for me to get an interactive experience and spread these creative reuse ideas by bringing them to San Antonio.
I wanted to extend a thank you to MFTA and Director Harriet Taub for their generous hospitality, time and sharing of knowledge. Observing their educators in action was so encouraging and I will bring everything I learned to Spare Parts. Their warehouse is inspiring, and I look forward to help recreate it with the Spare Parts San Antonio team.