Mr. Flores Visits Materials for the Arts

Here’s the front entrance of MFTA. I’m all bundled up; it was really cold in NYC over spring break.

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.

There are encouraging and inspirational signs throughout the halls of MFTA.

 

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.

Here is one of the cool displays in the MFTA warehouse showing “How do we reuse Christmas ornaments?” By making a solar system, of course.

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.

Here’s an educator at work in a classroom setting telling kids about the importance of reuse.
New York City’s’s young minds are prompt to make robots from donated, preloved items.

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.

MFTA’s Executive Director Harriet Taub and me are standing in front of artwork made by the youth of New York City.

Spare Parts Crosses The Pacific

Kara Michele Salinas

Aloha y’all!

by Kara Michele Salinas, Artist & Spare Parts Educator

Spare Parts travelled to Hawaii October 31-November 6, 2017 to learn first-hand about the poisoning our planet’s oceans due to plastic pollution, and meet organizations on Oahu devoted to tackling this crisis. This is an issue important to me, my family and my art and design practice. I knew that what we experienced would directly benefit Spare Parts’ body of knowledge and in turn increase environmental educational awareness in San Antonio.

Our vision: through programing, education and physical development, Spare Parts empowers citizens to reduce landfill tonnage through reuse and environmental accountability.

Our Spare Parts autumn adventure began with a flight from Austin, Texas to Honolulu, Hawaii. Mary Cantu, founder of Spare Parts, and I brought the Latin American-rooted celebration of Dia de Los Muertos to the eco-friendly organization Art Explorium. The relationship between Spare Parts and Art Explorium began four years ago when we were contacted for programming guidance. Read this blog posting by Laura Carter. Carter followed up with Art Explorium two years later in 2015.

The first full day in Hawaii Mary and I installed a Dia de Los Muertos Altar at Art Explorium using preloved materials, of which some were sourced locally in Texas with the remaining found in thrift stores in Hawaii.

We connected with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii at Turtle Bay in the North Shore. At our meeting we learned that Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii does not consist of a building footprint, but rather it is a compost area, storage bins and a storage container for the trash that is collected from Hawaii’s shores. Several of the collected plastics have labels depicting language from other countries, and this served as a reminder that trash does not need a passport to travel. I left the meeting reminded of the urgency to continue educating and practicing the four R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

I then led a creative reuse workshop at Art Explorium focused on teaching a soft sculpture activity for Dia de Los Muertos; a three-dimensional skull. The children also learned how to create paper marigolds and papel picado streamers plus they enjoyed some Mexican hot chocolate. Our trip to Hawaii closed with sightseeing, hiking and a drive along the Hawaiian scenic route to visit beautiful spots such as Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay. Mahalo!

 

The best aloha is a beautiful rainbow over Waikiki Beach, HI. View from a lanai at the Hale Koa Hotel.
Betty Boop hula art found at Bailey’s Antiques & Aloha Shirts, 517 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, Oahu, HI. This is the best place to find a ton of pop culture collectibles from all over the world. From the right: Cantu and me.
Collectables like vintage matchbooks diverted from the trash found at Bailey’s Antiques & Aloha Shirts, Honolulu.

 

Here I’m installing the Spare Parts Dia de Los Muertos Altar at Art Explorium located in the Kaimuki neighborhood of Honolulu.
I led the Spare Parts Dia de Los Muertos skull workshop at Art Explorium. The children in this picture are learning how to repurpose fabric and sewing scraps into a soft skull sculpture.
Here’s our community Dia de Los Muertos Altar at Art Explorium.
There are farm fresh produce stands found along the way to Turtle Bay Beach in the North Shore.
Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii located at Turtle Bay in the North Shore. From left: Luis Linares, Sustainable Coastlines volunteer & advocate, Cantu and me.
This photograph shows a close-up from the inside of the Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii recycling bins. Beach cleaning volunteers find numerous forms of trash discarded into the ocean including ropes, fishing nets, plastic and micro plastics.
The last portion of the trip allowed for sight seeing along Hawaii’s scenic route. Here’s Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve. This image illustrates the beauty found in Hawaii and the urgency to keep our coastlines free from pollution.

It isn’t waste ’til we waste it.

“Imagine a place in San Antonio where waste inspires creativity…because it isn’t waste ’til we waste it,” reiterates Mary Elizabeth Cantú, Founder and Director of Spare Parts. As an organization whose mission includes–cultural and environmental sustainability; affordability and accessibility to the arts; community, education and creativity, green-style–Spare Parts engages the public with many possibilities to reach zero waste...

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