Photo courtesy of MFTA
A story about a nonprofit that allows public school teachers to stock up on school supplies for free was the most read story on QNS.com this year.

School is almost in session and one organization is encouraging teachers to go back-to-school shopping for supplies for free.

Materials for the Arts (MFTA), which is operated by the Department of Cultural Affairs, with support from the Department of Sanitation and Department of Education (DOE), provides free materials to teachers — from binders to paper and computer chairs.

The organizers are hosting a Back-to-School Shopping Spree starting Aug. 22 and ending on Sept. 29. Teachers can also visit the warehouse to pick up supplies all year round.

Every New York City public school is pre-registered in the system and can pick up shopping carts full of supplies. Located at 33-00 Northern Blvd., the 35,000-square-foot facility has more than 40 aisles of materials, according to Communications Coordinator Kwame Belle.

“Teachers coming back to school tend to have a lot of budgetary limits and [redecorating] your room can be quite daunting,” Belle said.

The organization collects about 1.5 million pounds of materials each year and is the largest provider of art supplies to New York City public schools. Materials are donated by an eclectic mix of sources including Poppin Office Supplies, fashion companies like Marc Jacobs and Eileen Fisher, law firms, cultural institutions such as Queens Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Broadway shows.

In addition to basic items such as folders and binders, MFTA provides unconventional items like ribbons and beads. Last year, the organization received sand from the Broadway show “Grounded” starring Anne Hathaway.

“There are also non-traditional items like scraps of fabric and ribbons and buttons and beads,” said John Kaiser, director of education for MFTA. “Teachers can use beads for counting sticks … fabric to make puppets for writing courses or costumes they can make to present at social studies classes.”

Teachers will also leave with MFTA tote bags filled with “Think Outside the Box” project kit that will include project ideas. The organization hosts classes that are a part of the DOE’s After School Professional Development Program. Every Saturday, teachers learn useful skills that they can bring to the classroom.

“It’s such a heartwarming experience to watch teachers [at these classes],” Belle said. “What it really does, it allows them to come to a space in which the whole idea is to just exchange creative ideas.”

The first class, titled “Raw Fibers: The Art of Fabric,” will explore the production and uses of fabric and teachers will learn about spinning, story weaving, fabric printing, wax and glue batik and shibovi, and dye techniques. It will start on Sept. 17 and end on Oct. 22.

MFTA also hosts field trips, in-school residencies and public programs and curates an art gallery.

“We really feel strongly as artists and [department of culture] we want the citizenry of New York to know that they don’t have to buy expensive art supplies to make art,” Kaiser said. “The more that habit is in schools … more students [will] go home [feeling] empowered to make art with their parents.”

Teachers, who are required to make appointments, can pick up items every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursday from 2 to 6 p.m. If a teacher is looking to be added to their school’s member account they can go through their principal or send an email to education@mfta.nyc.gov.



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Owen Iverson August 19, 2016 / 05:05PM
it's so sad that we live in the United States of America and our education system relies on teachers' personal income (perhaps "income" should be in quotes) to furnish supplies for kids. there's a growing backlash against sites like Donors Choose because the thinking is that these types of sites are giving our government an out in funding something that should rest squarely on the shoulders of said government. oh well. i guess we just let our population get dumber and dumber as we care less and less about education and watch more and more Trumps work their way toward running the show. :(

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