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.

February Third Thursday: UrbanGlass and Amanda Patenaude

Amanda EcoIcons _Rascle
UrbanGlass and featured artist Amanda Patenaude lead our February Third Thursday Workshop. We’ll explore sculptures and mosaics made from reused glass followed by a hands-on workshop making art with supplies from our reusable glass section.

Established in New York City in 1977, UrbanGlass fosters experimentation and advances the use and critical understanding of glass as a creative medium.

February 16, 2017
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.


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.

Attendance is free thanks to our generous Friends of Materials for the Arts funders, including the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

Rubin and Shelley FoundationFOMA Logo

MFTA Third Thursday: Printmaking with Michael Kelly Williams

Our artist-in-residence Michael Kelly Williams leads our first Third Thursday Artist Workshop of the new year!

Last Set Before Noon, 1979, 25 x 25 inches, woodcut litho colors on B.F.K. Rives

 January 19, 2017
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
During our free workshop, Williams will show us how to make prints with creative reuse methods. We’ll have an opportunity to make our own unique prints to take home. People of all ages and art making skill levels are invited. Start the new year with a healthy dose of inspiration and creativity!

Check out NY1’s feature on Michael Kelly William’s current exhibition “Found and Funky”.

Free but first come, first served. RSVP suggested. 


Get Ready to Party Masked Marvelous is Here!



Hosted by
BD Wong

Special guests:

Harold Moeller from the Bindlestiff Family Cirkis • Red Carpet by Calling All Parties • Colby Cannon • Coney Island Circus Sideshow • Dzieci Theatre • Krena Dean • Mama Tabia

Join us on Thursday, October 27th for an evening of dancing, mask making and celebrating the incredible artistry of the MFTA community.


Can’t attend?



Special Thanks



Volunteer Spotlight: Adobe


By Alissa Valeri

To get us ready for recipient “shopping”, 15 volunteers from Adobe generously offered their time to help organize the MFTA warehouse. The volunteers organized donations on the warehouse floor from 10 am to 3:30pm, breaking for just an hour to eat lunch. When asked about Adobe’s visit to MFTA, Volunteer Coordinator Nakeshia Betsill remarked that they were the “longest working group” she had ever seen volunteering with us..

Adobe’s commitment to helping MFTA resulted in substantial progress on the warehouse floor. The volunteer team unpacked and sorted five bins of beads, pearls, and necklaces into boxes for the Trim & Notion section. In addition to this, they unpacked and distributed 8 bins of hardware supplies which included objects such as lights bulbs and duct tape. Finally, a large portion of the afternoon was spent bundling greeting cards together, arranging books on the bookshelves, and laying out reams of paper in the Paper Room.

MFTA would like to commend the Adobe volunteers for their industrious day. Adobe has also donated office supplies, paper, computers, furniture, and more to our warehouse. Companies like you help provide our recipients with a pleasurable and productive shopping experience, for which we thank-you!

Alissa Valeri was the Summer 2014 Communications Intern at Materials for the Arts.

Director’s Notes: Prop Summit

photo2By MFTA Executive Director Harriet Taub

One of the greatest things about working at Materials for the Arts is our access to very talented people.  For those of us who love performance, we are eternally grateful for the designers and artists who work behind-the-scenes making magic creating theater sets, costumes, and props. This past Friday, I headed to the 6th annual Prop Summit held by the incomparable Jay Duckworth, Prop Master at the Public Theater.

Here is how Jay describes the Prop Summit: “Just before the fall theater season, props masters, artisans, and special effects people meet in the East Village, deep in the heart of the Public Theater. Professors from Emerson, Yale, Julliard, NYU, and Princeton, along with their students, meet with Props Masters from The Met, The Public, and Broadway and off-Broadway freelancers to share ideas and talk about the trade.”

Over drinks and snacks, the group of about seventy was able to kibbutz, regale each other with tales of great successes (and perhaps some fizzles), and network the night away.  Midpoint, the group moved from the Public’s awesome prop shop to the newly carpeted Newman Theater to listen to guest speakers that included Tony Award-winning Set Designer Donyale Werle and me, Executive Director of Materials for the Arts Harriet Taub.

Jay says, “This year’s theme was A Greener Theater, and I was so happy to get two people who are really at the forefront of their discipline. Donyale and Harriet are role models for all of the young artists in the field, and we as a collective could not have two more informed leaders to speak to us.”

Donyale is passionate about reducing material throwaways in theater and moving towards using more environmentally friendly materials.  Her set designs focus on sustainability, which seem to come naturally to her. She uses found objects, thrift shop finds, and many other second-hand materials. She serves as the Co-Chair of the Pre/Post-Production Committee for the Broadway Green Alliance.

“The materials teach me, instead of the other way around. I couldn’t force a material to do what I wanted it to do,” says Donyale.

This idea comes out of her upbringing in Nashville, Tennessee. “I come from a family of environmentalists. My dad is a landscape architect who was involved in the solar movement in the 1970s, so I grew up that way.”

I was thrilled to be part of this summit and have the opportunity to wax poetic about what we do at Materials for the Arts. Most importantly, I am an advocate of creative reuse. Thinking about the materials we are surrounded by and then giving them a new purpose is a passion of mine.  We send way too much to the landfills…repurposing and rethinking helps divert lots of valuable materials back into the community through the work of artists, designers, students, teachers, and other creative minds.

The best part of this summit was that it connected a group of very hard working, like-minded props people. In their hectic schedules, they are often working in isolation. A favorite part of being out on the MFTA floor on shopping days is watching folks network and ask each other questions like, “What are you going to do with that?”

I wish that this type of event could happen for set designers, choreographers, costumers, and art therapists.  Whether folks have access to MFTA or not, this Summit helped kickstart the conversation of how professionals in the props field use each other as a resource to either give or get stuff.  The sharing economy – you gotta love it.


Big Moves at the Whitney Museum

By Alexandra Ruiz and Alissa Valeri
Part of a mini-series highlighting New York City museums as materials donors and recipients of MFTA. We deeply appreciate these cultural institutions’ generosity and contributions towards the sustainability of the city’s arts and education community.

Next spring, the Whitney Museum will be opening a new building in downtown Manhattan near the High Line. During their big move, they have continued donating to Materials for the Arts and supported programs like the Hudson Guild and Regent Family Residence. Over the last 10 years, the Whitney has donated a substantial 20,078 pounds of materials to MFTA worth a total of $36,524!

The Whitney has provided the warehouse with many items that have found their way into schools and organizations such as Forest Hills High School and the Brooklyn Arts Council. This March, we received our biggest donation ever from the Whitney, weighing in at 5,240 pounds. Then, in May, Director of Retail Operations Jennifer Heslin kindly dropped off 50 bins of arts and crafts supplies, 20 household items, 5 bags of fabric, and 5 bags of office supplies. In the past, they’ve also donated unique items like their gift store bags and cameras.

Also, the Whitney Museum is one of our recipients. This spring, MFTA served as a materials resource for producer Alexandra Rosenberg and performer and designer Elisa Santiago during the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Alexandra stocked up on materials for the upcoming performances of three different operas. They incorporated picture frames, household items, and also nearly 300 pounds of fabric and trim for costuming.


The Whitney is now displaying a special exhibition of Jeff Koons’ work until October 19.  The exhibition is the artist’s first ever retrospective and will be the final exhibition in the museum’s current Upper East Side home before the re-opening of the new space in the Meatpacking District. Jeff Koons’ work draws attention to mass production and consumption and highlights our infatuation with inessential objects. The Whitney’s Family Programs Coordinator Billie Rae Vinson recently visited us to find supplies.

On the weekends, the Whitney Museum offers families a wide variety of events and programming for children of all ages. Drawing inspiration from the Jeff Koons’ retrospective, the Whitney is providing pop-up activity stations in the museum galleries on select Saturdays. Inspired by Koon’s material experimentation, like a giant Play-doh sculpture, the stations encourage visitors to explore different art materials.


Thank you to the Whitney Museum for their partnership as donors and recipients. We wish them the best of luck in relocating to their new space and look forward to exploring it ourselves in the near future!

Alexandra Ruiz is the Donations and Development Intern and will be starting her first semester at Brown University this coming fall. Alissa Valeri is the Communications Intern. She is a rising junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in Art History and History.