Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Arts + Culture The good kind of trashy: Creative reuse center SCRAP...

The good kind of trashy: Creative reuse center SCRAP turns 40

Looking for materials for that Halloween costume? Thank you stars SF's artistic recycling center is celebrating its fourth decade of creative reuse.


SCRAP is celebrating four decades as town’s most magic place to shop for used tiles, colored pom-poms and old Life Magazines. Those acquainted with the magic of the 5,000 square foot Bayview warehouse — even those who have yet to discover its charms — are welcome to celebrate by checking out a group art exhibition of works made from SCRAP supplies, which will run through Sun/23 at Minnesota Street Project.

For it is hard not to love a jumbled wonderland within city limits devoted to the scavenging of recyclables for art projects. Where else in San Francisco can you join with similarly broke creative types to browse for colorful and constructive consumer goods that will not add to one’s financial hardship? Is there any other place in town to join with those who share your love of mismatched tile and holographic paper remnants?

SCRAP is a land where the creative come to fuel their inspirations, or even to be inspired by the constantly shifting landscape of bits and bobs.

In 1977, soon to be SCRAP founder Anne Marie Theilen realized that though she had secured funding for staff of the SF Neighborhood Arts program she was running, the group had no budget to speak of when it came to supplies. How, she wondered, to spark creativity in community artmakers when you had no tools of creation? If only there was a place where people and companies could donate lightly used materials and remnants, for the struggling art instructors looking to fill their bins with fodder for their students’ creativity.

And so it was. Now the country’s first creative reuse non-profit is housed in a SF School District building in Bayview, where it provides jobs to neighborhood residents. SCRAP has expanded its mission to offer accesible creative reuse workshops. And donated materials continue to pour in, most gifted by sustainability minded individuals and companies that ensure the store’s stock is constantly updated and replete — so replete, in fact, that SCRAP is currently using five shipping containers just to keep its bits and bobs in order.

Diane DallasKidd employed used plastic shopping bags to create "Plastic Lace," her piece in SCRAP's 40th anniversary exhibition.
Diane DallasKidd employed used plastic shopping bags to create “Plastic Lace,” her piece in SCRAP’s 40th anniversary exhibition.

Two-thirds of operations are funded by sales in the store itself, while the rest is supplied by donors. Now is an excellent time to become one of these — SCRAP always accepts money and materials from those looking to keep it alive.

Ben Delaney is SCRAP’s current executive director, and in an interview with 48 Hills he talked about the center’s continued relevancy in a town that is fast pricing out everyone interested in bins of used building blocs and vats of plastic spiders.

“In a way i wish we didn’t have to exist,” says Delaney. “But teachers in schools are so poorly funded, they need us for their supplies. And like teachers, artists are getting pushed out by increasing rents in the Bay Area. SCRAP allows many artists to continue being creative. “

Delaney says that to date, SCRAP has diverted more than 250 tons of waste — snatched from the landfill for an alternate life as art supplies for artists across the age spectrum.

And the flights of fantasy inspired by the shelves of SCRAP? To get an idea of the magic that is made from materials found among the aisles, one can take a trip to Minnesota Street Project, where a group art show is currently exhibiting 47 upcycled pieces made from the center’s supplies. Delaney says the curation was culled from 220 artists who responded to an open call, plus a few selected works.

Nemo Gould's "Firefly"
Nemo Gould’s “Firefly,” another piece from the SCRAP show.

“Right now the art show is the thing I’m most proud of, it really shows what you can do with our supplies,” he says. “I’m biased, but i’m impressed by the quality and creativity that this show has garnered. The pieces are just tremendous — the public response has been tremendous, we’ve already sold six pieces, which is the most we’ve ever sold from an art show.”

That response, coupled with the fact that SCRAP’s gala (accurately titled “SCRAP40: I love that place!”) sold out its tickets weeks in advance, seems like a promise that San Francisco is willing to show out for the place that provides its low income artists and teachers with supplies.

And what will that support bring? Delaney says, a second classroom at the Bayview location and a permanent home for SCRAP’s teacher giveaway section. “The next year looks like more of the above. We’re looking for space to expand in — we’re up to our ears in the space we’re currently in. We want to expand to offer more services and expand the impact we have in the community.”

Exhibition runs through Sun/23
Closing reception: Sun/23, 11am-4pm
Minnesota Street Project, SF
More info here.

Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue grew up in the Sunset and attended Jefferson Elementary School. She writes about weed, sex, perreo, and other methods of dismantling power structures. Her current center of operations is Mexico City.


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