Friday, December 1, 2023

Villas Nonprofit Saves 2 Tons of Art Supplies from the Trash

Shown is the back area of the Art Depot. What looks like clutter at first reveals itself to be bins full of useful art supplies.
Collin Hall

Shown is the back area of the Art Depot. What looks like clutter at first reveals itself to be bins full of useful art supplies.

By Collin Hall

VILLAS – Yards of fabric, vintage wooden boxes, ornate buttons, old pins from Bill Clinton’s first presidential run: All these items, once destined for the dustbin, have found new life at “Art Depot” in Villas.  

The new store and creative space is a nonprofit that helps local artists find things they need without all the waste of buying new.    

Penelope Cake, owner, said that the nonprofit is a “creative reuse center,” a concept she first discovered in New York City.  

“It’s like a thrift store for art supplies,” Cake said in an interview with the Herald. 

The problem that “Art Depot” hopes to solve will be familiar to anyone with crafty hands. Need paracord for a bracelet? Michaels sells yards of the stuff, even if you just need a few feet. Need a dab of black paint for a Warhammer figure? The paint for sale, even in the smallest quantity, might last you years. 

It all adds up. Most artists have a hoard of art supplies that they might never touch again. Art Depot is a hub where artists can offload their excess and find smaller quantities of things they need. 

Cake remembered the first time she stepped foot in a creative reuse center in New York.  

“It was huge; a massive warehouse full of supplies that would otherwise be thrown away,” she said.  

She became a regular visitor to that place and hoped to open an art store when she moved to the county from the city in 2011. 

Twelve years later, that dream finally came true. 

Cake is a member of the Center for Community Arts, the organization with which Art Depot partners. This partnership allows Art Depot to maintain its nonprofit status. 

She settled on her Villas location because the rent was inexpensive and the previous tenants, a sign printing shop, laid out the unit in a way that was perfect for the Art Depot’s purposes. 

The front of the Depot is an open space for art lessons and studio space. Art classes are held there every week, and local artists can pay a fee of $10 to use the space, and any supplies they might need, for a day. 

The back of the space, though cluttered, is a treasure trove of used supplies. The ghosts of fads past can be found in miscellaneous bins and drawers.  

Old scrapbooking stamps – that took suburban moms by storm in the early 2000s – can be bought for as little as 50 cents. When new, those stamps once cost upwards of $10. 

Every crevice is organized chaos. Yards of fabric, baskets of buttons, rope, string, ribbon – artists and DIY-minded folks can have a field day here, Cake said. 

The Depot has saved two tons of supplies from being thrown away. This includes oil paints and other items that are toxic and would otherwise end up in a dumpster.  

“These things are genuinely useful for people – it’s great to see them go to new homes,” she said. 

The front of the store is filled with projects that visitors have made from the materials at the store. A favorite is a light-up robot lamp made of scrap metal. 

“I really want this place to be a space where people can share their creativity with one another,” Cake said. 

So far, that has rung true. Business has been steady since their grand opening in February.  

“We started with no money – three members of the Center for Community Arts help to pay the rent each month,” Cake said. 

But she sees a bright future for the space – she has been flooded with donations, so many that she can’t take more until more of the current inventory moves. 

“This place really suits my sense of purpose,” she said. “It took me over 10 years to get here. Come on in, you never know what you’ll find.” 

The Art Depot can be found at 1302 Bayshore Road, Unit 202, in Villas. Find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/artdepotcmc or email them at artdepotcmc@gmail.com.  

Author’s note: Pins I found during my visit included a Big Bird button that said, “Be Ready for Earthquakes” and a 3-inch diameter pin of Bill Clinton’s pet cat, Socks.   

Contact the author, Collin Hall, at chall@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 156. 

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