Institutional Memory

Every day is Earth Day at Materials for the Arts. This unique re-gifting megastore came into being a few decades ago when the Children’s Zoo needed a new fridge. Funding was in short supply, so an enterprising young woman put out a call over the radio and was subsequently swamped with offers. Ah, the power of the radio! Today, Materials for the Arts has a loading dock the size of Macys, unwanted materials of all shapes and sizes are brought in by the truckload, and schools, theatre groups and artists shop the shelves without a penny changing hands. This is the ultimate treasure hunt – you don’t know what you might find, nor what artistry the unexpected may inspire.

The MET recently presented a historic challenge to the artists in residence at the MFTA with the gift of their entire slide library. Five thousand years of art history and decades of evolution of the museum on Fifth Avenue, these transparencies were more than a record, they were art. At least that is what they have become. The resulting exhibition at the Long Island City hub is a dramatic interpretation of the past forming the present, of curators guiding our perspective, and the reassurance that stories can be told richly, regardless of the medium. Nothing is ever lost, and the MFTA means we can find some fun and inspiration along the way…

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