spare parts founder Mary Elizabeth Cantú honored with “Art of Peace” Award

What’s the leading creative reuse arts organization in San Antonio? You only need one guess. The efforts of spare parts–to educate and demonstrate to the community the path of artistic expression through creative reuse–is unprecedented in our city. Founder and Director Mary Elizabeth Cantú, the charismatic force driving spare parts, continually challenges and inspires people of all ages to re-think the connection between environmental impact and making art.

Throughout the years, Cantú has been given media recognition, kudos and awards from such publication as San Antonio Magazine and Texas Public Radio. The MINI ART MUSEUM, a project created by Cantú and Gabriela Santiago, won Contemporary Art Month awards two years in a row. A combination of multi-faceted programs blending cultural arts, materials accessibility and environmental activism, spare parts, now in its fifth year, is reaching a pivotal point of growth and influence.

On February 17, 2016 in conjunction with St. Mary’s University’s Conference on Justice and Social Concerns, Cantú was awarded the Art of Peace award. This prestigious award was presented by the President of St. Mary’s University Tom Mengler. President Mengler describing the award, said “The artist chosen must be worthy both as an artist, in terms of quality, as determined by reputation in the artistic community and one who, through art, works for peace, as determined by reputation.”

Dr Tom Mengler Mary Cantu Dr. Winston Erevelles
St. Mary’s University President Tom Mengler, Mary Elizabeth Cantu, Dr. Winston Ervelles

This year’s conference theme was “stewardship in science” which invoked this quote by Pope Francis, “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing and it human roots, concerns and affect us all.” President Mengler prefaced the award presentation by describing the work of spare parts as dedicated to “…community education and creativity, green-style.”

“Imagine being asked to promote the arts without any resources, which was my situation several years ago,” Cantú explaining the beginning of the spare parts. “After some research and meeting a local business owner, I realized there were tons of free materials and supplies out there for creative opportunities. These materials were no longer needed but too valuable to be thrown away. I went to this business who filled my car with all sorts of cool stuff and they asked me to come back with a U-Haul.”

annual teacher materials giveaway
2015 Annual Fine Arts Fair and Teacher Giveaway at Wonderland of the Americas

The annual material giveaway for teachers was born, when Cantú realized she could divert perfectly amazing materials from the landfill and put these supplies in the hands of teachers who could use them in their art, science, math and history curriculum. Because, a class lesson is so much more interesting when it’s not taught with worksheet after worksheet.

spare parts award workshopAfter the presentation, students attended a workshop where Cantú detailed various spare parts  projects. “Truth is: there is no such thing as throwing something away,” she said, challenging the students to give a second and even third look before tossing stuff in that trash can. Students were asked to decorate a sign reminding them that “Trash is the failure of imagination (Aaron Kramer).” All materials used in spare parts workshops and projects are donated ‘leftovers’ from businesses and individuals.

spare parts award workshop group

 

spare parts various projects include community outreach workshops with arts organizations such as the McNay and Southwest School of Art, Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center and many different schools and educator groups. spare parts hands-on art tables pop up at many San Antonio City events where children and adults enjoy participating in a creative reuse art project or viewing the MINI ART MUSEUM.

spart parts award workshop poster

Upcoming spare parts events include participation in the following events:

Saturday, March 5, 2016, 27th Annual Earthwise Living Day at Leon Valley Community and Conference Center

Saturday, March 5, 7 PM – 9 PM, Opening Reception & Performance: MINI ART MUSEUM:”That Thing on the Side of the Road, Period Modern Gallery

Friday, March 25, 2016, 6 pm, Closing Reception: That Thing on the Side of the Road, ChrisPark

Saturday, March 26, 2016, Mini Maker Faire at the San Antonio Public Library

Saturday, April 2, 2016, San Antonio Book Festival at the San Antonio Library

Friday, April 15, 2016, Bohnam Academy Spring Art Festival

Interested in volunteering? Please contact sparepartstudio@gmail.com for details.

Photos by Laura Carter.

Moving Painting—the art of the swing

Imagine lying on your belly in a big fabric swing, kind of like swinging like Batman as a kid. With a non-traditional painting utensil—think silk flowers, squishy ball, hand broom, even a flip flop rubber sandal—dipped in paint. Your educator/facilitator gently pushes you over across an area of canvases collected from thrift stores to freely apply marks. Slinging, flinging, dribbling and dabbing—you’re creating a masterpiece like no other.

sacurrentMOVINGPAINTING_begin

Moving Painting is a cross-disciplinary performance and visual art experience designed by spare parts which debuted at the contemporary arts showcase event Luminaria 2015.  “The concept for Moving Painting percolated in my thoughts for some time before finally sharing it earlier this year with Gabriela Santiago and Roberta Hassele,” said Mary Cantú, Founder and Director of spare parts. “I was hesitant to talk about it because it was a wacky idea and wasn’t sure it would be accepted.”

sacurrentMOVINGPAINTING__But spare parts advisory board members Santiago and Carla Berryman (who helped write the proposal) have no problem with not only accepting, but embracing, the non-traditional art experience. Currently serving as Director/Co-Chair Contemporary Art Month San Antonio, Hassele joined the team to  bring her considerable experience and talents to the project. The result is the creation of a unique, free-form artistic experience which speaks to children and adults alike.

It challenges participants, as well as audience to rethink artistic expression.

sacurrentMOVINGPAINTING_
Captured comments from Moving Painting participants.

Luminaria looked at the proposal and noticed our performance needed to hang from a secure structure. Initial plans included the installation of scaffolding. Fortunately, CrossFit Mind Body Soul, a business on this year’s Luminaria footprint, was open to hosting Moving Painting. “Our experience was very positive with Andrew Lilly and the entire CrossFit staff, “states Cantú. Lilly described Moving Painting as “unique because you’re constantly moving around the paintings seeing everything from a different angle/perspective instead just staring at it straight up and down as it sits still in front of you.”

Kinetic, creative, interactive, colorful, wacky and fun

It’s nostalgic; it reminds people of swinging on the playground. It’s open ended: you can paint as much or as little as you want; you can experiment with colors and mark making.

“I would love to see Moving Painting installed in the middle of huge closed arena like the Alamodome; at The DoSeum, out in a grand public place like Market Square; at a venue such as Brick at Blue Star,” said Hassele. “Or, at parks, birthday parties, in museums, back at Crossfit MBS, team-building events for businesses/organizations, in your backyard, Fiesta, Siclovia, and Chalk It Up (replace paint for chalk),” added Cantú. “There are endless possibilities.”

Nina Hassele (l) & Mary Cantu (r)
Roberta Hassele (l) & Mary Cantu (r)

Good news! The Moving Painting experience is for hire. If you are interested in the bringing this unique fun to your next event. Contact sparepartstudio@gmail.com.

Luminaria: Established in 2008, Luminaria is a contemporary arts festival unique to San Antonio. The two-night event is a celebration of the arts presenting new works by performance, literary and visual artists.

 

 

Art Explorium merges art, academics & creative reuse

Art lives and breathes inside every segment of education.

It’s aloha again from our colleagues at Hawaii’s Art Explorium. You may remember Heather Williams & Julie Uyeno-Pidot from our previous blog post No Ocean is Wide Enough for spare parts–A Creative Reuse Tale between 2 Cities. We caught up with Heather & staff after reading about their recent Creative Reuse Open House for Teachers.

“By weaving the arts into & through our content in naturally aligned ways, we are providing relevance to student learning, & giving them an opportunity to connect their world to our classrooms,” said Susan Riley in an edutopia blog post.

Believing this approach combined with the creative reuse applications, Art Explorium staff hosted more than 50 teachers at an Open House event in July.

Heather–During the planning phases of this event we meet with other people in the community (educators, people from our local museum & arts organizations, etc.) to discuss what would be most valuable to teachers. We feel that if our projects integrate with critical academic subjects so that they support each other, teachers will be more likely to attend our event, find value in it, & to actually try these projects in their classrooms.

Making the event easy for teachers to attend was one of the most important elements.

Heather–We thought by using an Open House informal format teachers can stay as long or as little as they want. They don’t have to give up an entire day or half a day. Each station was set up with a different academic focus (language arts, science, math). With an arts education expert, teachers learned about two projects that tie in to an academic subject. For example, the science table this year featured Fabric Bowls & Cork Boats as the two projects. Each station also had relevant books set out so teachers could get ideas about other helpful resources. We invited them to bring their children with them. While they were getting materials & talking to resource people & getting project ideas, their kids could do art activities in another area. Teacher resource handout

More than 50 teachers attended, up from only about 10 in 2014, so we have definitely come a long way! Hopefully these teachers will take what they learned & share exponentially with their students.

Heather–Being a new nonprofit, the past three years have been a day-by-day learning experience where we try new things, see how they work, learn from them & move forward from there. We are now starting to see some patterns, & get a better understanding of who we are & what we do.

One of the best parts is that we have built a community around us – in our neighborhood, amongst the families that visit us, amongst teaching artists & other local organizations.

Art Explorium staff plans to participate in creative reuse art activities at some upcoming community events such as a STEAM event at Windward Mall and at the Kaiwi Coast Run/Walk later this month as well. They will do some activities at each event. And, they are presenting at a Preschool Conference in September to share creative reuse ideas with teachers there.

Creative Reuse Lesson Plan Pamphlet

Heather and Julie shared pictures of some of the event’s projects:

Carole with fabric bowl and cork boats

This year I really liked the Fabric Bowls because we have so much donated fabric. They are so cute & kids can really add their own personal touch to them. Carole on the left. She is an artist, an art teacher & a curriculum expert. She is giving ideas to teachers on how to integrate the science projects into their classroom

Janice at science station at workshop

Janice shares some of our favorite classroom resources including the t-shirt apron, robot kit, bottle cap mosaic &felt board.  T-Shirt Apron Directions

The author’s favorite project is the Found Art Collage. 

 

Laura CarterThe author's favorite project, Found Objects Collage is a writer, blogger, social media maven & nonprofit advocate. A communications professional, she is currently working with Blessed Sacrament Academy on Mission Road developing their communications/development programs. Laura serves on the Advisory Board of spare parts. In addition, she has volunteered all five years with TEDxSanantonio.