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How Arts & Scraps fueled creativity for Detroit kids stuck at home

Over on the east side of Detroit, just off Harper, Ang Adamiak spent the pandemic year shifting her nonprofit Arts & Scraps’ programming to an online format. The nonprofit collects and sells donated recycled materials — everything from leftover industrial fabric to wood scraps, tiles, machine parts and greeting cards –  and creates educational and artistic experiences for people young and old.

Incorporated in 1989, Arts & Scraps has “never really slowed down … and at times ended up doing even more than before,” said Adamiak, executive director of Arts & Scraps. But the pandemic gave her time to reflect on the organization’s future — and her own.

A “normal” week for Adamiak has included hosting socially distant outdoor gatherings on Belle Isle and sending out a whopping 5,000 Creative Supply Kits through 2020 to Detroit students and their families as it transitioned its classes online. The kits include recycled and artistic materials like foam cut-outs, crayons, beads, and colorful textile swatches. 

Last year the team transitioned its classes to an online format. The storefront arm of Arts & Scraps, which was open seven of 12 months in 2020, had to adjust to online sales as well as curbside pick-up and shopping by appointment.

Adamiak said partnerships built entirely out of “love and support” have enabled much of what the nonprofit was able to accomplish during the pandemic. She’s quick to point out that “we couldn’t have done this on our own,”  praising the work of her team, volunteers and local program partners like Brilliant Detroit, who distributed the Creative Supply Kits through their network of Detroit-based community support houses. 

While it hasn’t been an easy year for Adamiak, especially as a self-described “extreme extrovert,” it was a personally rewarding one. Besides hanging with friends in public parks, her most significant highlight was simply recognizing the value of quiet times in intentional reflection. That often took the form of writing in a spot where she could see the Detroit skyline, with pen and paper in hand.

Setting aside one hour a week “to pour her heart out and create thoughtful space for herself and Arts & Scraps” through reflective writing is not a “flashy” practice, she said, but one that was productive and healing. 

Adamiak said one of the most important lessons for the nonprofit has been to consistently “show love to our community through our actions.” Looking forward, as vaccinations continue to be administered, Arts & Scraps is planning on more outside programming in the summer. Think sales, interactive experiences — even food and music — whatever it takes to bring people together and show “community love” after such a long period of separation.

Julien Godman

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