Beautification through murals

Jessica and Alicia from Change for Kids sent this photo from the organization’s School Beautification Day. For the event, the organization went to PS 243 in Brooklyn to sort and shelve over 500 newly-donated library books, executing three vibrant and inspiring murals, and organizing the school’s museum. In Alicia’s words, “it was certainly a fun and fulfilling way to spend a spring day!” I’m glad the 20 gallons of paint that the organization obtained from MFTA went to such a wonderful project. And it shows another way MFTA benefits New York City’s public schools.

Danish desserts and diplomacy

One of Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls.

At MFTA we’re all about connecting communities within New York and beyond. Last month we hosted a large group of volunteers from the UK Mission to the UN including Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant. Continuing this trend, last week Executive Director Harriet Taub had the pleasure of meeting the Ambassador, Consul General of Denmark Jarl Frijs-Madsen at his home in Westchester. Harriet has this to say of her experience:

Along with the Executive Directors of Galapagos Art Space, 3 Legged Dog, and Cultural Strategies Initiative, I was invited to present a brief picture of the work we are doing in New York City to the Cultural Affairs Commissioners of the five largest Danish cities. The delegation was here for a whirlwind tour and meetings with City officials, nonprofit leaders, and arts administrators. At the working dinner we were able to partake of the most scrumptious Danish-inspired food while sharing success stories and current challenges. We heard about how our colleagues in Denmark are responding to tight budgets while trying to balance the important roles the arts play in their communities. The evening ended far too early, but I rode the Metro North back knowing that we had done our part to bridge international relations between our two countries.

Recently, NYC has hosted some well-known Danish artists, most notably the 2008 installation of Waterfalls by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and, more recently, Superflex’s public restroom as part of Creative Time’s Living as Form. Even more recently, MFTA darling organization Flux Factory spent time in Denmark working on a myriad of projects. Though a New York City program, MFTA’s influence spreads far beyond the five boroughs.

[Image credit to Art Fag City]

Gracie Mansion hosts the Divine Miss M

Mayor Bloomberg presents the 2012 Doris C. Freedman Award to Bette Midler.

In New York City, there are celebrities and then there are stars. Last week Executive Director Harriet Taub had the pleasure of being in the audience when Mayor Michael Bloomberg awarded the Doris C. Freedman Award to Bette Midler for her outstanding work in repairing, renewing and nurturing the parks, roadways and public spaces in New York City. No one can deny that Ms. Midler is a star. The New York Restoration Project was founded by Bette in 1995 and is dedicated to transforming open space in underserved communities to create a greener, more sustainable New York City. In partnership with the City of New York, NYRP is also leading MillionTreesNYC – an initiative to plant and care for one million new trees throughout New York City’s five boroughs by 2017.

An example MFTA weaving.

Our relationship with NYRP goes back to 1996 and over the years we have helped them furnish their offices as well as provide them with supplies for arts programs in the parks. We are very excited to be working with them on a project this May and June that will bring MFTA teaching artists to five community gardens throughout NYC to set up and operate drop-in art-making projects.

Participants of all ages will be encouraged to interact with one another and see the parks as meaningful gathering places. By using materials that are readily available to everyone, such as plastic bottles, telephone wire, ribbon scraps, and plastic bags, participants learn that there are always art supplies available to them. The art pieces themselves will remain on display in the gardens for the next few months. Come join us:

5/24– Bathgate, Bronx 2pm-5pm
6/2 – 103rd Street Garden, Harlem 12pm-3pm
6/9 – Sherman Creek, Washington Heights  12pm-3pm
6/16 – Hull Playground, Brooklyn 12pm-3pm
6/19- Creston Playground, Bronx 2pm-5pm

[Top photo credit to Kristen Artz and the NYC Mayor’s Office Flickr]

Recycling Olympics with reused prizes

Alyson from GrowNYC shared their work from the South Bronx Earth Fest last month. For the event, they launched the Recycling Olympics. Teams balanced milk cartons on strings, shot hoops with soda cans, hunted for recyclables while blindfolded, sprinted materials to the proper bin, and learned resource conservation through waste reduction in a game of tag. As reward for the various events, participants won trophies and medals made from materials from the MFTA warehouse. Toy cars, trim, and a plethora of craft items were used to make the unique medals and sculptures, which were the perfect prizes for an environmental event. Alyson also shared this wonderful video of the event by Mott Haven Herald, which is definitely worth a look:

Smocks from jumpsuits

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This helpful guide and smock was created by Cecilia Bien, one of our newest volunteers at MFTA. The smock was inspired was by the hundreds of oversized utility jumpsuits donated to us by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services. Such a simple alteration can turn one of these jumpsuits into a useful item for any artist. I’m looking forward to seeing more wonderful ideas from Cecilia.

Roof of the World in a New York City public school

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Lynette from PS 98 in Manhattan sent these wonderful photos of a Rooftop of the World project. She and her students made the project using fabric from our warehouse after taking one of our “P” in-service credit classes. Here is her explanation of the project:

The flags offer movement from the wind – fluttering and flapping of colorful intention flags – with windsong. As the sunlight dims from a cloud, plane, bird etc., the shadows along with the movement and sound is fantastic. It actually takes my breathe away watching the children play and reading, looking “Up, up there”… [I] loved  watching them dancing on the playground  with the wind and colorful cloths. This is a simple project with lasting depth.

Standing underneath, above – whatever perspective – offers a refreshing moment. Every window in the school has a moving show of their work. They are looking out and up and know that within they have offered up an intention. I feel the connection to Nepal here…

It’s a very beautiful description to accompany a very beautiful project. I love how the cloths are even adorned with positive messages. Through the pictures I can tell that the project provides a wonderful energy for the entire school.

Masks and fractions

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Esther from PS 48 in Staten Island shared these images of projects she made from previous trips to the warehouse. Over the winter, Esther picked up trim and craft items to make the masks, and during her last trip in early April, she picked up books and magazines to make the boxes. The boxes were not only used for an art project, but were used for a later project as well. Of the pieces, Esther told me:

Not only did it serve as an art project, but we realized that when we put 10 of these together, it formed a whole circle and could be used while teaching fractions.

It is this cross-pollination of disciplines that drives our own Education Center classes, and is why MFTA is a great resource for all types of teachers. I’m impressed with how different these masks are from Millenium Art Academy’s masks. Similar project ideas can create such varied results based on what is currently in stock at the warehouse, which is definitely part of the fun. 

A reuse Van Gogh

Hannah from wonderful MFTA volunteer group New York Cares shared this photo of a reuse version of Van Gogh’s famous The Starry Night. Here are Hannah’s words explaining how the famous post-impressionist painting became a reuse mural:

We started by spray painting Van Gogh’s Starry Night onto a piece of screen that we got from MFTA that we put on top of a piece of canvas. We then cut the screen into 6 rectangles to make it easier for the volunteers to work on.  All the materials were separated into piles according to color and we supplied glue, needle & thread, and Velcro as means of attaching the different materials. The volunteers were instructed to choose materials according to the color on the screen and attach them securely. The volunteers loved choosing which material to use and they were proud of how it turned out!

Now completed, the mural will be donated to a school for blind children. New York Cares has been coming to MFTA for years now to volunteer, so it’s great to see them use our materials as well. Reuse murals are a great way to use many of the smaller items from the warehouse, and the student volunteers did a great job!

Open House this Saturday at Millennium Film Workshop

Neighborhood treasure Fourth Arts Block will be hosting an open house at Millennium Film Workshop this upcoming Saturday, April 28th from 2-6pm at 66-68 East 4th Street (between Bowery & 2nd Avenue). All Materials for the Arts recipients are invited to go and check out the items available for donation. If you go, make sure to sign-in at the event and list all items you have taken. You may find a list and pictures of items available for donation by clicking here.

Please note that items will not be reserved and will be donated on a first come-first served basis. If you have any questions, please contact Donations Coordinator Antonio Pontón-Núñez at or 718-729-2065.

Helping misanthropes at MFTA

Sheryl from the Hudson Guild Theatre Company shared this photo of their set of The Hip Hop Misanthrope, which opened in February. Sheryl had this to say of her experience with MFTA:

We are very grateful for everything we received and want to thank you for helping to make this set design happen… The lamp, coffee table, picture frame, red chair, and many other smaller items are from MFTA.

Many of the flats (walls) we received because of Ms. Harriet Taub’s generous and kind assistance, putting us in contact with theaters who are disposing used scenery.

One of the reasons I love working here is the dedication the staff demonstrates toward helping out our donors and recipients. It is wonderful that our Executive Director will spend time on the phone helping recipients make appointments and connect with donors. And it’s always worth it when an organization like Hudson Guild can turn items headed for the landfill into beautiful works of art.