NYC Resources 311 Office of the Mayor

In 1978, Angela Fremont, a young artist working in Central Park for the Department of Cultural Affairs heard the Central Park Zoo was looking for a refrigerator to house medicine for their animals. Pre-Craigslist, Fremont contacted a local radio show host to make an on-air appeal for a working refrigerator. Within minutes, her office was inundated with phone calls and the concept of Materials for the Arts was born. Over the next six years with the active support of Commissioner Henry Geldzahler,  Angela wrote grants and was joined first by Diana Billipp and then Jill Moser. Together they helped advance the program, borrowing trucks, hiring drivers, utilizing a warehouse space at PS 1 and adding donors through advertising campaigns and arts and cultural member organizations.  When Fremont left to pursue other opportunities in 1984,  MFTA was already bringing in over 1 million dollars’ worth of reusable materials annually. But this was just the beginning.

Susan Glass took the helm and for the next 16 years worked tirelessly to raise MFTA's profile, traveling across the country to tout MFTA's role as a reuse program supporting the arts and advocating to New York City government when the program was threatened with budget cuts.  In the late 1980's Susan approached Sanitation Commissioner Brendan Sexton to introduce him to Materials for the Arts and its impact on the environment.  He then recognized the important work MFTA was doing and included the program as part of the City’s 25 year solid waste plan.   As a result, MFTA began to receive funding from the City's Department of Sanitation through their Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse, and Recycling. In 1997, Ms. Glass forged another key partnership with Dr. Sharon Dunn through the Department of Education's Project ARTS initiative. This intra-agency agreement allowed art teachers access to MFTA materials and helped support the restoration of arts education in public schools.

In 2000, MFTA moved from the Chelsea Market to its present-day Long Island City location, doubling its warehouse space. Friends of Materials for the Arts was founded in 2002 with the help of newly appointed Executive Director Harriet Taub.  With the creation of Friends of Materials for the Arts,  the nonprofit organization that guides and supports the work of MFTA,  the program was transformed into a public/private partnership.
These partnerships, both public and private, enable MFTA to offer unique support to the arts and cultural community while advancing reuse, recycling, and waste reduction as a goal of municipal government. MFTA continues to set high standards for efficient operations, distribution of materials, and educational programming.
From one person with a desk and phone to a 35,000-square-foot warehouse, an online donations system, and robust education and volunteer programs, Materials for the Arts is New York City's premier donation center supporting the arts and education.
Photo Credit: Barbara Korein/Materials for the Arts
P-Credit (+30) Courses:
Learn how free supplies from Materials for the Arts can be creatively reused to make engaging projects for lessons in all content areas. During these studio-style courses, teachers focus on developing lesson plans, aligned with the Arts Blueprint and Common Core Standards for their own students.
Learn More
Quick Links