sparepARTS needs art materials and supplies for Teacher Fair

UPDATED for 2012: Piles of cardboard, countless art books, buckets of art supplies and more are strewn around the four classrooms and hall of the basement at the Henry Ford Academy of the Alameda School for Art and Design.

It almost looks like a recycling center. And that’s just the way Mary Cantu of sparepARTS likes it.

The classrooms and their piles of materials are all being organized for the upcoming Arts and Arts Materials Teachers’ Fair on August 6, 2012, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.  About 20 slots remain for teachers to receive free materials and project ideas, and the deadline to apply is Monday, July 30. Teachers interested in applying for the fair can contact Mary Cantu via the sparepARTS website.

Many applicants have said declining financial support for arts education means they must spend their own money for supplies.

“I know teachers pay out of their own pockets to offer creative materials and resources to their students,” Cantu said. “It's a no-brainer.”

Asked what they enjoyed most about teaching, applicants for the program said they could see the "A-ha" moment when students grasp a concept or realize they could do something they'd never thought before.

Cantu, calling herself a “softie,” said she can’t help but get goosebumps when she reads what teachers are writing when they apply for the art supplies fair.

The concept of reuse, while certainly not new, is something Cantu said she's hoping to adapt for the entire program. She hopes the program can sustain itself after the Teacher Fair in early August and continue to grow, or at least continue to serve the San Antonio area with donations of materials, volunteers and storage areas.

While some of what she needs to continue sparepARTS is in short supply, Cantu said she doesn't believe the necessities of those teaching the arts in schools will be scarce.

The 60 or so teachers who applied for the Teacher Fair last year spanned 10 school districts in San Antonio, teach students in a range of programs and need materials for various reasons. There were also applications from teachers outside San Antonio seeking supplies or entry to the Teachers Fair.

“We didn’t expect this extraordinary level of need and interest. So far, educators from elementary, middle and high schools in 10 different local school districts have signed up to incorporate our materials into lessons from every content area in and outside of the arts,” Cantu said.

“It’s inspiring in the making and acquisition of these things,” she said pointing to a sofa and chair made of cardboard, foam and other materials. “When we were asking kids to volunteer … we started showing them the potential of stuff you see. The possibilities are endless.”

She and her volunteers are finding new uses for the various materials, ideal art projects and organizing whatever she receives.

The sparepARTS website has a listing of items the group is accepting for the fair and has more information about volunteering time and ideas.

“I attribute art and taking classes and being able to be creative to problem-solving,” she said. “The success of this project means that we did something right and we listened.”

Watch a video produced by the sparepARTS studio showing more of the project.

(Photos on home page and story courtesy of Jennifer Castano/sparepARTS)

This story was originally published on 2011-07-13 and was updated 2012-7-25