If you’re in Durham, check out the Scrap Exchange
by Sarah Hall
When I entered The Scrap Exchange, I felt validated.
I save things most people throw away. Cardboard tubes, wine corks, styrofoam packaging, the top off the laundry detergent bottle, pretty much anything, ends up in my attic or basement. I plan to incorporate them into art projects a few decades from now, when I find time. I do not hoard. I am promoting creative re-use.
The Scrap Exchange occupies 13,000 square feet of space in a former tobacco warehouse in downtown Durham. It’s filled with barrels and boxes and shelves of discarded things and pieces of discarded things. It was as if I were returning to my mother ship.
The lady behind the counter was wearing a belt made from a vintage Junior Girl Scout sash, badges and all. I have a similar one from my own scouting days many years ago. I had never before contemplated making it into a current fashion statement. But I may now.
I bought some cute little science class beakers. My daughters bought burlap bags. We apparently don’t have enough free discarded items in our house, since we are purchasing more. We couldn’t resist the Scrap Exchange’s charms.
This 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization collects materials from hundreds of individuals, businesses, industries, and municipal sources and distributes it through their retail store and with workshops, parties, and outreach events across the Southeast.
They call it a “win-win-win situation.” Donors can get a tax deduction for the fair market value of the items they give, people get access to affordable materials, and usable stuff is kept out of the waste stream.
They collect materials from over 250 industries within a 100-mile radius and take in contributions from individuals.
The stock changes, but some of the things they usually have are boxes, bubble wrap, CDs and jewel cases, cards and envelopes, cardboard cones and tubes, elastic, fabric, foam noodles, foam core board, glass and plastic bottles, labels, envelopes, laboratory equipment, marble scraps, mylar, notebooks, folders, office supplies, paper, picture frames and matboard, stickers, tile, wood and metal scraps.
These materials are sold in the retail store and used in various arts programs and workshops. Their Events By the Truckload program goes to community festivals and events where they provide hands-on arts activities.
They also travel to schools for classroom workshops and after-school activities, and host workshops and parties at the Creative Reuse Center. They teach professional development workshops for educators and childcare providers with suggestions for incorporating reclaimed materials into their curriculums.
In addition to the retail space, The Scrap exchange has warehouse storage space, a workshop and party room, and an art gallery.
They are mostly self-sustaining, with nearly 90 percent of the $200,000 budget coming from income through store sales and and outreach programs. The remaining funds come from grants and individual donations.
The Scrap Exchange was started in 1991 by a woman named Chris Rosenthal and a group of supporters including nationally-known environmental artist Bryant Holsenbeck and educator Joe Appleton. Rosenthal was a teacher who had previously worked for an organization in Australia called “The Reverse Garbage Truck.” She patterned The Scrap Exchange on that program.
The art gallery showcases artists who are using repurposed materials in their work. Openings are held on the third Friday of the month, 6-9 p.m., in conjunction with Downtown Durham’s Third Friday gallery walk events.
Next is the “$20 Show,” July 18nAug. 12. Artists are invited to “make something cool out of reclaimed, reused, or reusable materials and put it in this show. All artwork will be for sale for $20 per item.
Artists can come in and hang their own work July 16 from 11 a.m.n5p.m., July 17 from 11a.m.n 6 p.m. or July 18 from 11 a.m.n5 p.m.
Regular store hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m.
If you are interested in donating items to The Scrap Exchange, call 919-688-6960 or send a message to email@example.com to make sure it is something they can accept.
For more information, visit www.scrapexchange.org.
nnnSwap-O-Rama Rama! at Durham’s CCB Plaza, 6-9 p.m., July 18, features The Scrap Exchange, the Scene of the Crime Rovers and the Triangle Sound Painting Orchestra.
The Scrap Exchange will produce an outdoor “Swap-O-Rama Rama” including a giant clothing swap and do-it-yourself stations for altering clothes. They will also provide a hands-on Make-N-Take with materials for participants to make fun stuff.
The Scene of the Crime Rovers, Durham’s only punk marching band, will provide live entertainment beginning around 7 p.m.
At dusk, there will be live music and a mixed-media audio/visual collaboration by the Triangle Sound Painting Orchestra and Jim Kellough. This performance will begin as the sun starts to set and will continue until around 9:30 p.m.
Sponsored by the City of Durham Department of Parks and Recreation.
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