Every day is Earth Day at MFTA, but we go particularly hard in April

Earth captured by Apollo 17, NASA

Materials for the Arts celebrates Earth Day all year long, but with a particular intensity in April. This April, MFTA artists and educators were out around the city showing businesses, schools, artists, and the public how they can bring creative reuse into their lives. 

Hybrid animals created during educational programs at MFTA recipient Rubin Museum of Art. Educators at the Rubin creatively reused under-wire from the MFTA warehouse to create armatures for these hybrid animals (Photos courtesy Rubin Museum of Art, education blog)

Our first event of the month brought us to the Rubin Museum of Art, an MFTA recipient since 2005. The museum played host to the ISES Sustainability Summit, which aims to educate the event planning community on sustainable practices.

Before the summit began, the wonderful education staff at the Rubin treated us to a tour and showed us how they use MFTA materials to enhance their collection and special exhibitions with hands-on programming–check out the hybrid animals (above) participants made by creatively reusing under-wire from MFTA!

The MFTA Art Booth at ISES Sustainability Summit, April 3, 2012. Rubin Museum of Art

After the tour we met with tons of event planners and engaged them in making collage quilt squares with MFTA supplies. While they created, we discussed the variety of materials MFTA collects, telling event planners how they can divert unneeded items from landfill to 4,000 MFTA recipients around New York City. Our next event took us downtown, to MTA New York City Transit headquarters, where waste diversion happens on a huge scale!

MTA New York City Transit Asset Recovery finds a creative reuse for out-of-service subway cars. Photo: Tim Shaffer for The New York Times

MTA New York City Transit – Asset Recovery is responsible for all waste produced and collected within the New York City Transit system, which includes unneeded train cars, waste collected in subway stations, and construction/demolition waste. They do extraordinary work, recycling 80% of New York City Transit’s waste in 2011. One of their more interesting programs–and a creative reuse of subway cars–has been sinking out-of-service Redbirds off the coast of Delaware, where they become “luxury condominiums for fish,” Jeff Tinsman, of the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control told the New York Times.

Detail from the MFTA installation at New York City Transit headquarters

For Earth Day 2012 Asset Recovery highlighted its own work in New York City Transit headquarters as well as in subway stations around the city. In addition, they invited several organizations to help MTA employees become more green in their offices and at home. Materials for the Arts partnered with Asset Recovery to present a selection of artwork from MFTA Gallery’s 2011 exhibition Creative Reuse in New York City. The artwork, displayed in the lobby of New York City Transit headquarters, demonstrated how everyday items can be repurposed to create art projects and showed the variety of items that can be donated to Materials for the Arts. Transit employees were able to contribute orange thread and trim to the weaving above–when we collected the weaving at the end of the show a surprising number people had added their own designs! Transit employees weren’t the only ones who got to take a break from their day to get creative.

MFTA staffed art making booths where participants could make Earth Day buttons and learn about reuse and MFTA at three of MFTA donor Phillips Van Heusen’s offices as well as the Time Warner Center’s Earth Day festival (above). While we loved bringing creativity and reuse into these offices, we were even more thrilled to celebrate the earth outdoors!

MFTA Teaching Artist Chase Carlisle helps participants construct "Bag-Flag" using everyday items like grocery bags and trim from MFTA. (Photo by Harry Kafka)

Executive Director Harriet Taub offers these words from an Earth Day festival in the South Bronx:

On the Saturday before Earth Day, MFTA Teaching Artists Chase Carlisle and Greg VandeHey arrived at GetGreen South Bronx Earth Fest in St. Mary’s Park with plenty of plastic bags collected at home, and rolls of trim and ribbons from MFTA. They creatively reused these supplies to engage festival-goers in a collaborative art project called “Bag-Flag.”

Contributing to "Bag-Flag" at St. Mary's Park in the Bronx (Photo by Harry Kafka)

Parents and children roamed through the many displays from eco-centered organizations like MFTA recipients The POINT,  BronxWorks, and SoBRO  or learned about environmentally-focused  businesses like CityMatters and Waste Management of New York.  A popular spot on this hot day were the water fountains that NYC Department of Environmental Protection set up with delicious, cold NYC tap water flowing.  Far more than a street fair, this annual celebration allows attendees to move from table to table learning useful information about how to be a more responsible community member. Knowledge is power and the more we all know about how to recycle, reduce, and reuse, the cleaner and stronger our communities will be.

We thank Friends of MFTA board member Andrea Schaffer for working so hard on this event and for bringing together so many local groups to celebrate the earth every year at the lively South Bronx Earth Fest!

Detail of MFTA's reuse butterfly at Flushing Town Hall Earth Day festival (Photo by Joy Suarez)

After beating the heat on Saturday, the BIG DAY arrived.  Earth Day brought MFTA teaching artists to Flushing Town Hall’s Earth Day Festival where they helped visitors create  “Wearable Art” and a “Butterfly Mosaic” (detail above)–all by creatively reusing materials!

Through our donation collection and distribution service, workshops, school group visits, and community events we are always encouraging recycling, waste reduction, and reuse.  Each of our “Earth Month” events showed people other, [creative re-] uses for everyday objects that often just head right to the landfill.

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2 Responses to Every day is Earth Day at MFTA, but we go particularly hard in April

  1. Pingback: Diplomacy and art at MFTA | Materials for the Arts

  2. Pingback: Recycling Olympics with reused prizes | Materials for the Arts

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