ArtsJunktion provides accessible arts supplies and education

“Who can better use it?”

Walking into ArtsJunktion for the first time tends to change people. For community outreach co-ordinator Lou Gandier, it led to a job at the arts non-profit in the Exchange District, but more importantly to finding a place to access and work with art supplies that embraced community.

“ArtsJunktion was hiring, and I was like ‘I’ve heard about ArtsJunktion, (but) I’ve never actually (been) here before.’ We were walking in and just seeing people working at tables and being so excited. I didn’t know this place existed, and I can just work on my art here? ... To be in a safe place and channel my creativity – it’s overwhelming,” Gandier says.

ArtsJunktion offers by-donation arts and crafts supplies, affordable arts workshops, working space, and they are currently developing a tool-lending program.

Gandier believes that ArtsJunktion fills an important need for accessible arts supplies in the city.

“You can take what you need and just pay what you can,” they say. “Everyone’s here for a lot of the same reasons. They want to be creative, they want to make art or learn new things ... We have families, daycare workers, teachers, young adults. I think that’s very important that we have a place like this, especially for people who can’t afford art materials.”

This community-oriented approach goes far beyond what’s visible in ArtsJunktion’s bustling depot. Kaz Sawicz is the organization’s community outreach driver. He says that ArtsJunktion offers larger companies and manufacturers a way to reduce their waste costs.

“It(’s) either get the dumpster and fill it or call me,” he says.

ArtsJunktion’s storage space is limited, so when Sawicz is inundated with supplies, he will distribute them to organizations who need arts and crafts materials.

“Sometimes 100 per cent of the inventory I pick up comes here, sometimes only 50 per cent,” he says. “Some gets dropped off at daycares, at schools – who can better use it.”

ArtsJunktion doesn’t just ask who can better use their donated supplies but also offers ways for people to learn how to better use them. Workshop co-ordinator Barb Doncaster says she was initially hired to organize four workshops for art teachers in one year.

“Then people started to say, ‘could we do more teacher workshops, and could we do more workshops in general?’” she says. “So we decided to add general public workshops ... We now do between eight and 11 (teacher workshops) a year. This year, we may even do more.”

Workshops are held in ArtsJunktion’s large classroom space. Upcoming public workshops for October and November include working with clay, redecorating old furniture, making felt mittens and Pakistani kite-making.

For Sawicz, volunteering with ArtsJunktion has felt a lot more like play than work.

“I look at it like it’s not a job. It’s just a new adventure,” he says.

With a constantly changing and curated stock of arts supplies, accessible education and central location, there’s always a new adventure to be had at ArtsJunktion.

ArtsJunktion is always looking for volunteers and is open Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. and First Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m. at 312 William Ave. Upcoming workshops and donation guidelines can be found at artsjunktion.mb.ca.

Published in Volume 73, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 20, 2018)

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