Watch CBS News

Materials for the Arts partners with NYC Department of Cultural Affairs to turn trash into treasure

Materials for the Arts helps turn trash into treasure
Materials for the Arts helps turn trash into treasure 02:33

NEW YORK -- One of the country's largest creative reuse centers is located in Long Island City, and it's turning one person's trash into another person's treasure.

As CBS2's Leah Mishkin reports, they're teaming up with the city's Department of Cultural Affairs to help public schools and nonprofits across our area.

"We try to organize and merchandize like a store," said Tara Sansone, executive director of Materials for the Arts.

Sansone says everything in their warehouse was destined for landfill -- household items, old office supplies, furniture.

"We interrupt that process and collect them so we can give them away for free," she said.

You might ask yourself, why would anyone want these items? This is where imagination comes into play.

"They could create jewelry that exists with the nobles," said Tom Forde, a fourth grade special education teacher at P.S. 91.

He says kids have made all sorts of projects with MFTA supplies to bring history to life, from the American Revolution to the Middle Ages. 

"They have them think outside the box and look around the world that you live in and anything can be art," Forde said.

Nearly 2,000 public schools spread across the five boroughs use items from the reuse center.

Some are pretty much new. They're from businesses clearing space for new season stock, downsizing or closing. Individuals also donate. 

"Theater companies make costumes with everything they find here, from the trim and the lace to the fabric," Sansone said. "Teachers in schools make mosaic projects with CDs and beads."

In addition to public schools, MFTA has social service nonprofits, arts organizations and city agencies as members.

"We recently gave away 11,000 dance shoes. and we had over 500 New York City public school dance teachers come in here," Sansone said. "Some of the stories were that kids were dancing in their socks before they were able to come here."

Members can stop by the 35,000 square foot New York City Department of Cultural Affairs space in Queens twice a week to shop for free. 

"They're not only just simply learning how to do art, but they're also learning lessons in conservation because all of these materials are things that are recycled and reused," Forde said.

Teachers and volunteers at nonprofits often pay out of pocket to pick up extra supplies to enrich an experience for the people they teach and help. This program eliminates those costs, opening up a world of possibilities.

Every year, Materials for the Arts collects about 1.5 million pounds of donations that would otherwise be thrown in the trash. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.