2013-03-01 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Commentary By Susan Hartenstein

Creativity at work at the RAA workshop hosted by MFTA. Photo by Jessica Schulman. Creativity at work at the RAA workshop hosted by MFTA. Photo by Jessica Schulman. The recent art workshop for RAA hosted by Materials for the Arts was an enormous success. Let’s hear the comments of a few of those who attended: “I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.” “Much needed outlet. It was great.” “Thanks for a creative and fun evening.”

The goal of RAA’s Sophia Skeans, Dan Guarino and Anne Hourigan, who first approached MFTA with the idea after our Fort Tilden facilities were no longer available, was to give RAA artists who have lost supplies, studios, perhaps their homes and bearings, an opportunity and a venue in which to practice their vocation and/or avocation – to ‘play’ with the ‘toys’ so generously supplied by the municipal program Materials for the Arts – a chance to have some creative diversion from the devastating effects of Sandy. In the MFTA warehouse in Long Island City, in an atmosphere of spontaneity, togetherness and freedom, RAA artists and art enthusiasts shaped works using everything from paint, to markers, to colored paper, to colored fabric, to printed posters – everything from ascots to zebra pictures – anything to stimulate the imagination and encourage the flow of creative juices to make paintings, collages, sculptures, jewelry and more. All who came enjoyed the emotional release of gathering to make something beautiful or humorous or whimsical or serious.

Founded in 1978, Materials for the Arts, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, provides thousands of NYC’s arts and cultural organizations, public schools, and community arts programs that qualify with the supplies they need to run and expand their programs. MFTA gathers materials from companies and individuals that no longer need them and makes these donations available, for free, to the artists and educators that do. MFTA puts recycling and environmental awareness to the best kind of use, enriching the lives of those they serve. The program brings teaching artists into the community, and welcomes school groups, teachers, families and individuals into their warehouse for tours and workshops.

Nathaniel Shelness, MFTA Education Center Coordinator says that MFTA was “happy to let [RAA] use our space and materials.” RAA has been recipient of MFTA art equipment and office equipment since 1999. It is one of 4200 of the program’s members throughout the city. Shelness says that his organization usually does school group workshops, in which the students and teachers take a tour of the warehouse and gallery and then are led by MFTA teaching artists in an art-making workshop based on what they’d seen and using the materials they’d seen. MFTA also does workshops with volunteergroups and corporate volunteer groups.

In addition, MFTA offers professional staff development workshops. They train teachers of art and of various subjects that include science and math, in methods to make art a tool in a creative approach to all subjects, and to use recyclables and free MFTA supplies to create meaningful and engaging project based lessons. The Education Center has also worked with therapists, afterschool leaders and social service providers.

Much of MFTA’s mission is to encourage families in the community to bring in materials they might otherwise have thrown away and to use them as a family to create projects that show how much more those materials can continue to be; getting them to “re-see,” as Shelness says, the materials; extending their life, their usefulness, their expressive potential.

Rockaway Artists Alliance thanks Materials for the Arts for answering a great need in their community and for helping to “make RAA history,” as Sophia Skeans, the event’s organizer, puts it. This was the first workshop of its kind that RAA has done at MFTA. Let us hope it is only the first, with other( s) to follow. Visit mfta.org for more information.

RAA offers the free workshop, “Healing Through Art” to artists and members of the community of the Rockaways/ Broad Channel on March 10th from 12-4:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus, 333 Beach 90th Street, RAA will set up art venues for you to try your hand at a variety of activities. The act of creating, in any form of art (visual, musical, literary) helps your mind to be in the moment and you are able to relax/heal.

No art experience is necessary. This event would not be possible without the many volunteers and the partnerships of Knights of Columbus, NYC Regional Arts in Healthcare, and Brooklyn Watercolor Society. CU@-RoCA


Phone: 718-474-0861; Fax: 718-474- 4373; email: info@raa116.org; website: www.rockawayartistsalliance.org

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