Many Kin: Sol’Sax on educating through his artworks and reaching a wide audience


I’ve loved it here at Materials for the Arts the opportunity has been amazing the things that I see coming through here are always shocking and amazing and quite the inspiration. To be able to pull something that was in front of everyone to see and be able to show it to someone to me that’s the most powerful thing in the world.

I’m always thinking about the level of understanding of my audience. If a 6 or 7-year-old can get it following popular culture that’s where I want to roll out the red carpet, where I really want to bring them in. And then once you get to the title if you are a teenager you should get the title and then once you understand the title if you have learned anything about Yoruba or African Culture then all the other meanings start to come. So yes, I want to educate, but I don’t want to leave any bridge un-spanned.

I want every single audience to have a foothold in the images that I present. That they can recognize this and that recognition leads to the next level of understanding of the work. I look for many, many meanings to one word; I look for many many readings of one work.

Sol’Sax solo exhibition Sol’Sain’t Many Kin: All Sol’Skin Is A Free Kin is on view now through April 10, Monday through Friday from 9am – 5pm in the MFTA Gallery located at 33-00 Northern Blvd, 3rd Floor, LIC.

Sol’Sain’t: Sol’Sax on the use of mannequins in his solo exhibition


The thing that comes to my mind is there’s are so many mannequins. For me, it’s been really interesting to deal with the mannequins because my whole thing is that we are not many kin we are one kin, a free kin born from an African human tradition. So I don’t care how European you are, humanity itself is African.  Mannequins supposedly have blank features, but somehow they have very European sensibility. I’m looking at this idea of what we think of as a blank human and why is a blank human being white?


All of my work revolves around the Orisha and African American icons that reverberate that I synchronize with Orisha. So when I go into the warehouse, I’m looking for objects that I already know are going to say certain things. For instances I already had a Duke Ellington where I had taken an image of a Dan mask and put a top hat on it, now here I’m going to have this Dan mask with the top hat and I found it all here at Materials for the Arts even though I already knew I wanted a Dan mask and I wanted a top hat, it just showed up.


Education is primarily the point of what I’m doing. Everyone knows who Hercules is very few people know who Oshun is and by introducing them to Josephine Baker I’m not only able to talk about Oshun but teach them that history may not repeat itself, but it certainly does rhyme. Historical figures use tactics that may be helpful to you right now, right here because they were helpful a generation ago.


Sol’Sax solo exhibition Sol’Sain’t Many Kin: All Sol’Skin Is A Free Kin is on view now through April 10, Monday through Friday from 9am – 5pm in the MFTA Gallery located at 33-00 Northern Blvd, 3rd Floor, LIC.

Recap: Third Thursday with #MFTAir Sol’Sax


Artist-in-residence Sol’Sax guided us through our Third Thursday “Material Poetry” workshop creating sculptures and mixed-media pieces inspired by our favorite poems, songs and artists.

December Third Thursday with Sol’Sax: Material Poetry

Sol'Sax - Robert Johnson editedWe’re bringing our favorite songs and poems to life with artist-in-residence Sol’Sax. Think about the lines and verses you’ve dedicated to memory. What images come to mind? During our December 21, Third Thursday workshop we’ll take a look through MFTA’s collection for visual analogies to create sculptures, figures and material poetry that bring our favorite lines to life!

Third Thursday with Sol’Sax: Material Poetry
Thursday, December 21
6:30 – 8:30PM

Grab Your Tickets to Masked Marvelous Cocktail Party

Invitation Email Draft 5 Border KWAME copy

Purchase your tickets before September 29 to take advantage of the $75 Early Bird special to the Masked Marvelous Cocktail Party, a fun filled evening of food, drink, and entertainment at our fabulous warehouse in Long Island City. Tickets available for purchase here.

Join the Masked Marvelous 2017 Benefit Committee or make a donation.

If you would like to pay by check please contact: Antonio Coppola, Director of Development – | 718.729.2028

Check out the Masked Marvelous 2016 album. Photo credit: Janelle Jones

Registration for Fall P-Credit Courses is now open:


Project Based Learning: Reuse in ELA
Saturdays 9:30 am – 5pm
11/11 – 1/6

Engage students in meaningful investigations, promote informal academic conversations, and encourage deeper comprehension of texts in ELA and across the curriculum. From bookmaking and game invention to oral presentation and theatrical performance, our approach will provide you with the skills and materials to create a dynamic learning environment that addresses all learning levels.

Course registration
Course cost: $240


To complete registration you must also register on the ASPDP website.

Professional Development Courses for teachers are through ASPDP (After School Professional Development Program). “P” In-Service courses offer pedagogues’ high-quality, convenient, low-cost alternatives to college courses that may be applied to salary differential requirements and to the NYS 175 hour professional development requirement to maintain Professional Certification. Courses are designed to impact student achievement through the professional development of teachers.

Third Thursday Workshop: Weave Found Objects with Dianne Smith

 Inspired by the long line of basket weavers in her family that kept that African tradition alive in Belize artist-in-residence Dianne Smith leads our free workshop on weaving with found materials.

We’ll also take a tour of Dianne’s solo exhibition Twisted Woven Tied on view now in the MFTA Gallery. Twisted Woven Tied features 51 works created from found objects, textiles and personal items. Addressing issues of sustainability, Smith’s use of textile creates a dialogue around resourcefulness and alternative methods while also encouraging viewers to explore topics of identity found in the works.

July 20, 2017
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

photo credit: Laura S. Fuchs

Institutional Memory: Marco Castro Cosio

Prior to the March 16th, opening of Institutional Memory: 35mm Slides from the Met’s Collection Reimagined, Marco Castro Cosio formerly of the Met Media Lab sat down with MFTA’s Curatorial Team to talk about the changes that led to donating the Met’s slide collection, the shifting landscapes in archival technology and how it impacts art history.

original slide image

MFTA: How did the Met end up moving away from the 35mm slides? What made them suddenly disposable?

MARCO: It wasn’t that they were disposable. It was more like how do we make sure that people have more access to them. Before archives were digitized art history teachers would come to the Image Library, select slides that he or she needed for the class, bring them to their class, show them to their students and then bring them back.

Once they were digitized people could go online, download the images they needed and then show them to their students.The process as far as I know has shortened. I noticed that the projectors and light boxes were being rented less as well. We had better technology come along.

picture of dancing figurines with quote "I was not worried at all - it had not even occured to me to be worried, because a man who would be intimitaed by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in. " inscribed

(image credit: Andrea Wolf)

They were the original JPEGs if you will

MFTA: When did it come to mind that the slides should be given away to artists or others to create their own projects with?

MARCO: The Met has 5,000 years of art history. It became, how do we look at the future of culture and museums? With the slides, it was like- we cannot let this slide go– we need to reinvent them, reimagine them in a new way to create new stories; because this was an integral story of the Met and of art history per se. Even just the fact people learned their history with this piece of technology. They were the original jpegs if you will. It was always a matter of how the Media Lab could be a hybrid place where both past and future could be. How do we make this project happen, it was a larger project than we could handle just as the Media Lab. So it was great partnering with MFTA and the Met Education Department to create this project.

Teens peer at 35mm slides on light box to make translucent image appear

(image credit: Jean Shin)

MFTA: We’ve been talking a lot about access, and an interesting thought that comes to mind is that before slides existed, people had to read reviews from writers to learn about a particular artwork or exhibition.

MARCO: It’s was very interesting to see that when people came to the Met Image Library sometimes, they would find something that they wanted and sometimes they wouldn’t, or sometimes they would find things that they never knew they wanted. I think that’s the beauty of going to a library, culture center or any kind of place with a collection. It’s that randomness and serendipity that we haven’t been able to recreate, or I don’t think we will ever be able to recreate online. The I didn’t know I wanted that but now I want that, to me, that’s the beauty of MFTA. I could go shopping all over New York for things, but I would never have known I wanted that particular randomness.




“it doesn’t matter what the media is. Humans have been telling stories in different ways, whichever way is available to them. Technology can change, and media can change, but the content or whatever humans and artist can do using these tools will always be what connects us with different civilizations and societies”

MFTA: Jean Shin did a workshop for Teens Take The Met, and it was fascinating to watch. She introduced them to the slides and rolled out the projectors and light boxes for them to play with. It was interesting to see how seamlessly they transitioned into creating physical versions of Instagram.

MARCO: It was like ok, all these stories were captured on the slides and this format, but when people saw them and saw what they were, they would start curating it or selecting and putting them together to tell a story. So one thing that we were thinking was it doesn’t matter what the media is. Humans have been telling stories in different ways, whichever way is available to them. Technology can change, and media can change, but the content or whatever humans and artist can do using these tools will always be what connects us with different civilizations and societies. It was very interesting to be at the Met and say oh I can connect with this person who had been in the middle of New Zealand or many years ago even though we’ve never met but we have something in common and how do we find commonalities across time periods and geographies.

I think that humans are great at finding subtleties or shapes of anything, we can actually say oh this relates to this, and this relates to that, we can find patterns. We’re good at finding surprising patterns.  Machines can be good at finding the opposite like very broad strokes. I think we’re in need of both probably, it’s just that we’re learning to deal with machines and understanding our humanity.  And artists have understood their humanity before anyone else.

Institutional Memory: 35mm Slides from the Met’s Collection

image of Met's File Cabinets of Slides
While advances in technology have made physical photographic slides obsolete, this exhibition, created entirely from the recently digitized slide collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, reinvents the format as a new artistic medium.

Materials for the Arts, the creative re-use center of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have teamed up to showcase new artwork created and inspired by the Met’s slide collection.

Participating artists include Martina Mrongovius, Michael Kelly Williams, Andrea Wolf, and Dustin Yellin, as well as work produced in the Teens Take the Met workshop with Jean Shin. With 5,000 years of art history at their disposal, these artists’ interpretations provide an opportunity to explore and imagine the future of institutional archives and their role in how we experience museums and culture at large.


UpCycle Game Night: Textile Hackathon

Bunny Yan of Squirrelz leads our UpCycle Game Night

Thursday, February 23rd
5:30 – 9 p.m.

Inspired by our extensive collection of fabric, trim & notion and other fashionable donations the game night theme is a Textile Hackathon. Whether you are a fashion designer, an arts & crafts fan, or simply brimming with ideas, all are welcome! Feel free to bring your own excess materials & craft tools. We highly encourage sharing. We will also surprise you with the design materials we’ve been collecting to throw into the mix. So come out and play, have some drinks, some snacks and let’s make something cool!

MFTA has an accessible front entrance and accessible restrooms. If you would like to utilize wheelchair seating or ASL, or additional accessibility accommodations at the event, please contact Sara Cobb as soon as possible at / (212) 513-9376.