Materials for the Arts (MFTA) is New York City’s premiere municipal reuse center. A program of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with support from the Departments of Sanitation and Education, MFTA collects a wide variety of reusable materials from businesses and individuals and makes them available, free of charge, to nonprofits and government organizations with arts programming as well as New York City public schools. Friends of Materials for the Arts is the nonprofit partner that guides and supports educational programming, warehouse operations, programmatic initiatives and other goals of MFTA.
In1978, Angela Fremont, a young artist working in Central Park for the Department of Cultural Affairs heard the Children’s Zoo was looking for a refrigerator to house medicine for their animals. Pre-Craigslist, Fremont contacted a local radio show to make an on-air appeal for a working refrigerator. Within minutes, her office was inundated with phone calls and the concept of Materials for the Arts was born. Over the next twelve years MFTA grew under the leadership of Director Susan Glass who established partnerships with other City agencies.
In the late 1980’s Sanitation Commissioner Brendan Sexton recognized the important work MFTA was doing in the area of reuse and waste reduction. As a result, MFTA began to receive funding from the City’s Department of Sanitation through their Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse, and Recycling. In 1997, Ms. Glass forged another partnership with Dr. Sharon Dunn through the Department of Education’s Project ARTS initiative. This intra-agency agreement allowed art teachers access to MFTA materials and helped restore arts education in public schools.
In 2000, MFTA moved from Chelsea Market to its present-day Long Island City location, doubling its warehouse space. Friends of Materials for the Arts, founded in 2002 by current Executive Director Harriet Taub, is the nonprofit organization that guides and supports the work of MFTA.
These partnerships, both public and private, enable MFTA to offer unique support to the arts and cultural community while advancing reuse, recycling, and waste reduction as a goal of municipal government. MFTA continues to set high standards for efficient operations, distribution of materials, and educational programming.
From one person with a desk and phone to a 35,000-square-foot warehouse, a fleet of vehicles, an online donations system, and robust education programs, Materials for the Arts is New York City’s premier donation center supporting the arts, environment and education.
What is creative reuse? It’s so much more than recycling. If you’re a business or individual with excess materials or unwanted furniture, it’s passing that on to people who will use it. If you’re an artist or a teacher, it’s seeing possibilities in what others throw away or no longer use.
Creative reuse is rethinking our relationship to “waste,” repurposing materials unnecessarily bound for a landfill. It’s about sustainability and creativity coming together for the betterment of our communities and our planet.
For a comprehensive look at the impact of Materials for the Arts, click below to download our annual reports.