One person's trash is another's art project: 25 years of Arts & Scraps

When one is collecting donated recycled bits and pieces for art and education, one is bound to run across a few unique items that pose a creative challenge. But 10,000 Kenny Rogers posters?

"Way in the beginning of Arts & Scraps, we inherited 10,000 Kenny Rogers posters. That was an interesting one," says Peg Upmeyer, director of the Detroit-based arts and education nonprofit, which is celebrating its 25th year on Oct. 10
Arts & Scraps has forged a unique partnership between businesses, artists and educators to create hands-on learning experiences for kids.

Each year, Arts & Scraps helps recycle 28 tons of donated material from local businesses, transforming all those items into ah-ha moments of creativity, learning, and discovery for 275,000 children.

"We call that making the magic," Upmeyer says. "It's when a kid understands that they can express their ideas, that they can think independently and not have to worry about being right or wrong."

They collect bits of foam, plastic tubes, glitter, old notebooks, paper, buttons, and myriad other odds and ends. (And just that once, 10,000 Kenny Rogers posters from a canceled tour, which, Upmeyer says, became canvases for Detroit school kids to paint on.)

The nonprofit uses the scraps to create craft kits with lesson plans for teachers and schools. They offer field trips to their East Side Detroit headquarters where kids can shop for items in their warehouse to build their own creations, and they have transformed a transit van into a "scrapmobile," bringing the field trip to schools with low-cost supplies and a creative space.

The organization operates on a lean budget and has relied mostly on volunteer for its 25 years (they just got their first full-time, paid employee). But Upmeyer says an $80,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan will help "to take us into the next business cycle to move us out of that little grassroots place to something that is more viable over the long run."

The details: You can help support Arts & Scraps at their  25th anniversary gala on Oct. 10 at the Michigan Science Center. Tickets are $25-$75. More info here.

Sewers and crafters will want to take note of the Fabric Sale, Oct. 17-25th. They will have 3 tons of fabric -- cotton, fleece, yarn, and more -- up for grabs. More info here.

Arts & Scraps is at 16135 Harper in Detroit. Hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays. Group programs are by appointment. Call 313-640-4411.

This story originally appeared on, the Experience Engine for Southeast Michigan.

NOTE: IXITI readers can get Buy One Get One Free tickets to the gala's afterparty at 9 p.m., featuring a silent auction, dancing and IMAX movie. One ticket is $25. Use the code "IXITI" at checkout here.
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