Idea:  Building and installing weather protected receptacles to middleman between donors and users of art
Primary artistic medium: crafts and textiles


Free libraries were once just a small dream to locally spread literacy and knowledge without monetization. Now free libraries are a huge part of our community and a great resource for broadening horizons by way of text. I would like to take this dream turned reality another step, and create free art ‘libraries’ for people to distribute drawings, poems, art supplies, yarn, project ideas- and they shall be called Craft Cupboards!

Since 2016 I have been organizing craft-togethers, workshops, nature foraging outings, and most popular among the group: Free Art and Supply Swaps! The group communicates through Facebook and an email list to ask questions about creative skill sets, find like-minded artists, share information on free low-cost creative classes, and pass along traditional and non-traditional maker supplies. I collect supplies that could work in group settings and plan projects to utilize as much secondhand materials as possible. Pre-covid I would host workshops at least monthly and more often in the winter months when people really need the creative boost to get through to Spring. Early covid the group was a resource for Philadelphia mask makers to source and share supplies, pass along tips, and give out free masks to healthcare workers and low-income families. Now with Philadelphians feeling more safe to be back in the world I have started these events again and the community is here for it!

Planning these events would not be possible without these donated supplies. I would like to take the group to the next step and create ways for these supplies and workshops to spread through the community more fluidly without needing to facilitate every interaction. Specifically- The Philly community has things to share- yarn, fabrics, papers, stamps, beads, glues, knitting needles, and even sewing machines! The community is lacking a simple way to pass these items directly to the people who need them without involving a monetary middleman. Buy nothing groups are amazing, but often end in pick up communication errors, or no shows that discourage donors from putting in the effort to pass along their still very valuable supplies. The swaps leave me with piles of usable supplies for planning events for the following months. I donate the remaining supplies to after school programs, community rec centers, and outreach programs that have use for the no cost items.

With these events happening quarterly there are still a lot of supplies being offered up in the group on a daily basis that could be dropped at a free supply bin. These bins or ‘supply libraries’ can be frequented by those who can use the materials but do not have easy access to the internet, email, and/or Facebook. They could be used to anonymously pass on uplifting poems, leftover yarns, clean reusable recyclables and I know personally I would love to include instructions for simple at home projects. Please help me make this small dream a reality, and we can further Philly’s reputation as an artistic powerhouse!

Project Description

Philly is full of creative people doing and making everything from puppets and videography to sidewalk chalk and silicone molds. The need for art supplies, as well the idea of what can be used for art, is never-ending. With the increasing surge to reuse, repurpose, and keep things out of landfills there is also an abundance of secondhand supplies to go out into the creative community. I have a way to bridge that gap and connect locals with free supplies to the maker community who wants them.

By following the ‘free library’ model of thinking, I would like to repurpose newspaper dispensers into free art and supply craft cupboards to store and distribute art and supplies around the city. These dispensers are already protected from the elements, and are heavy enough not to get tossed around in a bad storm. There are a handful of alternatives including building the cupboards from wood or metal. The idea of repurposing newspaper dispensers that are no longer in use adds a level of city beautification, and saves new lumber or materials for another use. I plan to redesign the interior of the dispensers with shelving and hooks to best utilize space. I will fully paint the exteriors to depict what one might find inside. One dispenser could be painted with images of paintbrushes, construction paper, canvas and scissors etc. A second dispenser will be collaged with magazine clippings. A third painted to look like a piece of notebook paper with short poems and doodles. A fourth decorated to look like rolls of fabric, and a fifth will be mosaiced tile as a nod to the flourishing philly mosaics of Isaiah Zagar.

These dispensers, turned cupboards, will themselves be works of public art, while also being tools for local artists to create and inspire their own creative endeavors. Creating 5 dispensers could place one each in the neighborhoods of West Philly, South Philly, Center City, Fishtown and Brewerytown. Community members will be invited to use the dispensers themselves, and I will replenish each dispenser with art and supplies from my own collections. An Instagram account and landing page will be created to check in on what fun stuff is in the crafting cupboards each week. I will leave new project ideas with instructions in the bins monthly and call to the community to supply the bins with relevant supplies. The Instagram account could be used to engage the online community to share their creations. I would compile a short newsletter about the craft cupboards’ plans and artist projects to share with the physical community. The cupboards themselves will add to the depth and culture that Philadelphia boasts and give visitors a physical take away to remember us by. Perhaps a poem by a local writer, or a new knitting needle passed on with a ball of yarn- but mostly a physical memory of the love that Philly harbors for creativity.

Cassie Jones images