So, we talked about opening up a Center independently. Actually, we talked about it a lot because Trash to Treasure Creative Reuse Center did not open until 2007 in a hot warehouse by the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.All that time allowed us to do our homework. If just 3% of the teachers in the Broward County School System got annual memberships, we would break even. Then with other memberships (private and charter schools, artists, preschools, home schoolers, summer camps, and the general public), workshops, grants, and events, we could pay a part-time salary or two, at least to start off.It never happened.
It’s not like we didn’t try. We got grants for a membership for a teacher at every public elementary school and then later one for “D” and “F” schools. Few took us up on the free resource and fewer ever renewed their membership. The fact the schools were removing art teachers and were only interested in teaching to standardized tests just doesn’t help an organization interested in supporting art and developing critical thinking.
We also put on some great events like Broward College Sustainability Days, and the International Day of Climate Action (350.org). We partnered with Tribune Publishing to recycle more than 80% of the waste at their Beerfests. Our Trash2Art exhibits were groundbreaking in south Florida for artist that work in repurposed materials. Now virtually every exhibit features artists that work in reclaimed and recycled materials.
The good news is that these activities and grants helped us stay open. Most years, we more or less broke even. Funny thing, when you start an organization, you figure you will make money or run out of money. Nobody really thinks about treading water year after year.About four years ago, we started to discuss the Center’s sustainability. Our membership was stagnant. We started to feel that it was not enough to justify continuing.Instead, we decided to search for a new home. We were delighted that ArtServe actively recruited us. We would be close to artist and events. We had AIR CONDITIONING! We were really excited about the possibilities. What could go wrong?
Apparently a lot. Membership declined and in 2015. We lost over $3,000. Increasingly, critical as donations are, we were drowning in fine materials that had few shoppers. This is a reflection of a ultra consuming culture that feels guilty about waste but does little to redirect its shopping behavior to sustainably purchase gently used items. At a recent ArtServe art exhibit intake, with our sign in the gallery, only one artist came into the Center …only to talk about donating material. There is a never ending roof project just outside our back door, which has made it confusing and difficult for old visitors and new, to access us.
Directors are tired and want to do other things.
There aren’t a lot of options. We don’t want to go back to a hot warehouse. Rents are increasing. So, we looked at the signs and are deciding to call it a day.
THANK YOU to members of the Board over the years. You have been a working board- running the center operations as well as the background tasks to keep us alive, right to the very end. You know who you are and how dear you are to us. Although, we never made it “rain”, you embraced the “pirate” perspective that allowed us to be an independent, “do what we want” organization, that did not have to answer to the limited vision of bureaucrats. We could be innovative and try new things, some worked, some failed, but nothing stopped us from trying. We were always a kid, animal, and alcohol friendly organization no matter how dangerous that might seem.
We are thrilled that former volunteer and later board member Sarah Goff started the thriving Repurpose Project in Gainesville, so in some way our legacy continues with her.
THANK YOU to the many businesses and individuals provided us with wonderful donations that made a difference to our members. It was particularly heart felt was when someone brought in a deceased loved one’s art and craft supplies and simple treasures made vintage with time, and the ones that took the time to sort, clean, and box like items together making our life so much simpler. The wonderful businesses supporting us felt better knowing their interesting, provocative and often beautiful left over items, were going to people that needed them.We won’t miss the donors with labor intensive continual donations that seemed to be more therapy for the giver than useful to us and the struggle to make it known generally that we needed monetary donations as much as stuff to survive. We also won’t miss the phrase “I’m sure some artist can do something with this” when we look at a donation with a raised eyebrow. Seriously, animal hair, cigarette smelling, dirty rags are not something people want.
THANK YOU to our awesome volunteers. We provided countless hours of community service opportunities and got some good benefits too. Too many to mention but you were the backbone of the organization. Those who came regularly and knew what needed to be done were priceless. To the Volunteers Captains, taking leadership roles, your devotion to us was inspirational. You are the best and we feel you are like family.
And finally, a HUGE THANK YOU to the members who have been with us for years. You became not just our customers but our friends. Your ideas made us better. Your appreciation, enthusiasm and excitement were the reason we kept going. Knowing that we have made a difference in the wonderful things YOU DO for our community made all this worthwhile. It is you that makes this decision difficult.As this community matures, and there are more and more people with the consciousness like those of you that have sustained us over the years, someone will try this again, and it will “catch”, because there will be finally be a larger community that demands alternatives to mindless consumption and careless waste. Every community needs a place like this, remember what you have learned and use it every day. We will too.
We know we will see some of you around as we now have more time to participate in our community and attend your events and activities.
Good Luck and May the Force Be With Us All,
Trash to Treasure Creative ReUse Center, 2007-2016
now just sit back, listen and remember the good times…….