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SCRAP – budget educational source for art materials all year round

Tue, 01 Nov 2011 11:50:00
3.5 / 5 (4 Votes)
Article by:
Ed Attanasio
Jeff Rahuba (left) and Warehouse Coordinator Peter Lollo help run SCRAP’s 5,000 square-foot facility. Photos by Ed Attanasio.
For the past 35 years, SCRAP – Scrounger's Center for Reusable Art Parts – has been enabling the annual diversion of more than 2,000 tons of reusable discarded materials from the solid waste stream in the Bay Area. These material are now being  used as art supplies for schools, local artists, and the general public in search of low-cost supplies for almost any type of art project imaginable.

SCRAP was founded in 1976 by Anne Marie Theilen to initially provide art supplies to art teachers in the San Francisco public school system during a downslide in the economy in the late 1970s. SCRAP has had various homes over the years, including Fort Mason and Harrison Street, before settling into its Toland Street location in the city’s warehouse section off Highway 101 via the Cesar Chavez exit.

In its goal of consistently helping artists, art teachers and scroungers by providing ideal reusable materials for their art projects, SCRAP has grown to accommodate the burgeoning demand for reused art supplies.

SCRAP’s stated mission is to stimulate creativity and environmental awareness in children and adults through promoting creative reuse of materials that traditionally have been discarded as waste. To this end, the nonprofit organization collects and redistributes these materials to underfunded educational programs and other groups, as well as to artists, parents and students. They also host workshops held by local artists to educate and benefit the community in the art of creative reuse.

Interim Executive Director Shuai Chen is a 26-year-old artist, Stanford graduate and San Francisco resident. She is excited to be involved with an organization that keeps tons of art supplies out of Bay Area landfills by assembling and marketing a wide range of items – from fabrics to notebooks and all the way to greeting cards, frames, and literally anything and everything an artist or art student would ever want.

Chen started out as a volunteer and sat on SCRAP’s Board of Directors before being offered the position of interim director. “I am into making jewelry, so that was how I became familiar about SCRAP initially,” she explained. “This is a dream job, one I thought I would have to wait for 10 years to get, but here I am and I love coming to work every day.”

Large corporations, individuals and assorted organizations in the Bay Area donate items for reuse. Chen said that although SCRAP also receives monetary donations, they are 85% self-sufficient. “We are proud of that fact,” she stated. “What really helps is that our 5,000 square-foot facility is provided for free by the San Francisco School District. Like any nonprofit entity, we rely on the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, because our staff only consists of 10 people, mostly working part time.”

Providing San Francisco schools with writing paper is a huge undertaking at SCRAP and a major concern of hers, Chen said. “The teachers don’t have enough paper because the school district rations it. Their quota is one piece of paper per student per day, which is obviously way less than what they need. We always appreciate donations of paper for that reason. The teachers are always limited on all of their art supplies, so we’re constantly looking for things for them to use in their classrooms.”

The other most popular items most coveted by SCRAP include fabrics and notions (leather, trim, felt and fleece); foam core; old magazines – but only National Geographic and Smithsonian; markers, crayons, and other writing implements. “We want to fill the gap between Goodwill and Builder’s Resource,” Chen said. “We don’t take clothing, but we gladly accept costumes and we don’t take any types of electronics.”

One teacher who appreciates what SCRAP does for the artists and schools in San Francisco is Jen Hendricks, an accomplished painter and a mixed media instructor at the Academy of Art. Hendricks always includes a field trip to SCRAP during each semester, so that her students can see all of the wonderful benefits associated with recycling and reusing art supplies.

“This is an incredible resource for art teachers and artists,” Hendricks said while holding egg cartons and frame glass for some upcoming projects. “They have unlimited things to use here and a lot of unusual items that can spawn ideas for art. If I can teach my students about reusing objects found here, it’s a valuable lesson and one they will hopefully remember as they proceed into their art careers.”

As for volunteering at SCRAP – they are always looking for people who can help sort and put away materials; assist with community events and outreach workshops; create project samples and displays with SCRAP materials and help to update mailing lists. SCRAP volunteers have earned credit for community service requirements at their schools, while earning letters of recommendation and enhancing their resumes.

SCRAP is also affiliated with Project 20, a program that enables eligible people to pay off their San Francisco parking tickets through community service. Find out if you are eligible at the Project 20 website at http://www.sfmta.com/cms/penf/13441.html#project20. You can also learn more about volunteer opportunities at SCRAP by visiting www.scrap-sf.org.
 
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