Materials for the Arts (MFTA), a city program run by the Department of Cultural Affairs, provides a variety of field trips, workshops and classes for teachers and students.
Located at 33-00 Northern Blvd. in 35,000-square-foot facility, the organization is most known for its abundance of supplies: the facility features more than 40 aisles of items such as folders, binders, beads, fabric, ribbon and more. Every year, public school teachers are invited to the facility to pick up all the free supplies they can carry.
Artist Skip LaPlante, who created a collection of 130 wind chimes from materials found at MFTA (such as crushed lobster pots, license plates and utensils), showcased his work at the facility in September. Simon heard about the project and wanted to see the wind chimes for himself to use in an upcoming tour.
But when Simon visited MFTA, he became intrigued with its collection of materials and programs for children, according to Harriet Taub, executive director.
“I think he was really touched,” she said. “You go into a place for one thing and you come out at the other end and you had an experience that you never even imagined. I think that that’s what happened. He came in just about Skip, just about the wind chimes and then he saw our artist-in-residence and then he saw the warehouse and then the students.”
A group of elementary school children were visiting the facility and were introduced to the singer, who was immediately hugged by the students’ teacher.
“She saw him and she did a beeline across the room and hugged him and it was just so immediate,” she said. “She didn’t check herself for a second.”
Simon suggested the benefit concert himself and Taub said the group was stunned.
“Our jaws dropped,” Taub said. “Here is Paul Simon telling us, ‘I want to help you in a way.'”
Simon, who grew up in Kew Gardens, was one half of Simon & Garfunkel and also had a successful solo career. He has received 12 Grammy Awards and was entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
The concert, titled “An Evening with Paul Simon,” will take place on April 5 from 7 to 9 p.m. Musical guests Mark Stewart will accompany Simon as will LaPlante, who will play the wind chimes.
The money will go to Friends of Materials for the Arts, the nonprofit leg of the organization. The show will help MFTA continue its 250 free field trips for public schools and Title I schools.
A general admission ticket costs $500, a front row ticket costs $750 and the sponsor an arts educator ticket costs $500. All tickets are tax deductible.
To find out more about MFTA, visit its website.
Watch a video of Simon touring the facility and viewing the wind chimes here.