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Materials For The Arts Distributes Free Supplies To Artists And Public Schools

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While many consider Manhattan the Mecca of local arts, thousands of arts events around the city have humble beginning in the borough of Queens. As NY1 continues its coverage of Queens Week, Stephanie Simon tells us about a fairy godmother of sort for arts around the city.

It's the stuff that art is made of; creativity, inspiration, and stuff! Fabric for costumes, lots of outdoor dishware - it could be anything.

Anything because it's all donated. Inside the Center Building in Long Island City, Queens, Material for the Arts is a clearing house of sorts, distributing more than $6 million in supplies a year to arts organizations and public schools for free.

“Over 3,100 organizations are registered with Material for the Arts. About half of those, about 1,500, come in with some regularity,” says Bob Bangiola, Deputy Director of Materials for the Arts.

Materials for the Arts is part of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and its customers run the cultural gamut. Nell Balaban is working on a summer theatre workshop for kids.

“I'm here with our fantastic set designer, and we're shopping for props and set dressing and furniture,” she says.

Wilda Gonzalez is also doing children's theatre at Riverbank State Park.

“So the children are creating the costumes and stage setting,” she says.

About 100 customers come through each week. Individual artists like Blanka Amezkua can come shop if they're affiliated with a registered school or arts organization.

“I was looking for flowers so I found a lot of flowers for the workshop that I’ll be giving at P.S. 1,” she says.

Ruth Garon is helping to produce a new media electronic festival in Bushwick.

“I think we got really, really old slide projectors, so we're going to use [them] for our new media festival,” she says.

“We're really sort of like a re-use and a environmental program in disguise,” says Bangiola.

So what can you do with yarn, beads, buttons and bows? Well, not only can arts organizations come and get all this random stuff for free, they can also learn how to do arts projects with it.

For the second year Materials for the Arts is running a Summer Institute to teach educators how to better use the free materials. Today they're learning puppet making.

“When you can provide so many different kinds of materials to your classroom, it just opens up for that much more imagination,” says MFTA Master Teaching Artist Joy Suarez.

For struggling arts organizations and teachers who often buy supplies out of their own pocket, here at Materials for the Arts, it's the stuff that dreams are made of.

For more information, visit www.mfta.org.

- Stephanie Simon
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