Masked Marvelous Cocktail Party is an annual event held at Materials for the Arts (MFTA), a program of the Department of Cultural Affairs, which gives free donated materials to thousands of NYC arts and cultural organizations, nonprofits, public schools, and city agencies. Since its establishment in 1978, Materials for the Arts is New York City’s largest reuse center that was founded in dedication to the creative arts.
Friends of Materials for the Arts is the nonprofit partner of MFTA that supports initiatives in the areas of education and community outreach. Friends of Materials for the Arts also organizes the masked ball. This year, the theme is “Grit & Glamour.”
Masked Marvelous is essentially a one-of-a-kind cocktail party that is hosted in the MFTA warehouse. Since 2001, donated materials have been used to transform the warehouse into a fun and quirky destination capturing the true spirit of creative reuse. This year, the spectacular evening of delicious local food, signature cocktails, and roving entertainment will be held on Thursday, October 24, 2019 from 6-9pm.
Millions of students, audience members, choreographers, dancers, actors, set designers, art therapists, after school providers, and senior citizens have been positively impacted by the work of Materials for the Arts. In 2018 alone, MFTA collected over 1.7 million pounds of reusable goods, distributed free supplies to 2,074 of its recipients. MFTA reached more than 30,000 student and school staff through workshops, courses, and on-site residencies via the education center and provided 255 field trips.
MFTA currently has over 4000 “member organizations” which includes schools, theaters, galleries and dance groups, nursing homes, after school programs, art therapy centers, educational organizations, and environmental groups. MFTA members visit the warehouse in Long Island City to obtain materials or use a member’s only online system similar to Craig’s List. All of the materials are free, and recipients pay in gratitude by writing thank you letters to the donors of the materials they obtain.
Anyone can donate reusable goods to MFTA – businesses and individuals. All donations are tax- deductible. Donors drop off donations at the warehouse, send items via mail, or list donations on the online Direct Donations service, which matches donors with recipients directly.
MFTA also maintains a volunteer program that attracts thousands of people each year who generously contribute their time to projects in the warehouse, office and classrooms. The Education Center offers year-round programming to students, educators and the general public.
Proceeds raised from Masked Marvelous go towards MFTA’s nonprofit partner, Friends of Materials for the Arts, which guides and supports MFTA’s educational and cultural programming, warehouse improvements, gallery, and other initiatives.
MFTA’s Executive Director, Harriet Taub, recently discussed this event via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in the arts and how did that lead you to MFTA?
Harriet Taub (HT): For me, I had a very creative Dad who was a florist and a part time musician. I learned about making things and repurposing things from him. I sewed from an early age – he taught me how to do that. My mom worked in an office so I think I inherited the creative genes from my dad. In terms of how I got to MFTA, a friend of mine did some fundraising for MFTA back in the late 1990s. MFTA had received some money from the DOE, then known as the Board of Education – to sign up schools as members as part of the launch of Project ARTS which was an initiative to bring back arts education to the public schools. When I met Susan Glass, the longtime Director and force behind MFTA, it seemed like a perfect match for my skill set. I had a degree in arts education, I had a passion for the arts and sustainability – before it was even a ‘thing’.
MM: How did you come up with the concept for Masked Marvelous back in 2001 and how has it evolved since then?
HT: Our first annual fundraiser was not called Masked Marvelous. That name was coined by our long-time board member Anelle Miller back in 2004 or 2005. The first year, the event fell a few weeks after 9/11. It was a somber time in NYC but we had received a small grant from The Gap Foundation. It was small and festive and since it was MFTA, we had a table where people could make masks. That continued in subsequent years – hence the name – Masked Marvelous.
MM: How did you decide on the themes of the show and which have been some of the most memorable?
HT: I have to say, every year it changes based on which staff members take a lead. One year, the aisles were decorated like Venice. It also depends on what types of donations we get in in the months leading up to the event. That is what we always tell our members when they come in looking for specific materials. Come with a list, but come with an open mind. The materials can inspire you and your production, performance or event!
MM: What kind of entertainment can guests expect from the evening and is there a specific dress code?
HT: This year’s entertainment includes stilt walkers, live watercolor painting and portraiture, airbrush masks, performance artists from Fou Fou Ha! and Coney Island USA, roving dancers, and tarot card readers. Guests are also welcome to dance the night away with our DJ on the dance floor, and take part in our JetBlue ticket raffle and silent auction. The dress code is whatever people want it to be. Since the event is always at the end of October it presents an opportunity for people to dress up ‘a la Halloween’. We always have a great mask making table so even if someone comes in their regular street gear, they can make a statement with a fanciful mask.
MM: How long does it take to organize these parties?
HT: Oh my goodness, it takes months and not just a village but a city! We are a very small staff so we rely on volunteers who have been the backbone of our events for many years.
MM: What themes and entertainment events might you like to include in the future?
HT: Well, this year we actually brought in a member of MFTA who is ‘curating’ the event. Shelton Lindsay has been on board with us since August and it is his vision and his ideas that have informed the decoration of the space. The theme this year is Grit & Glamour and we are celebrating the five boroughs and our members who come to us from all over the City.
MM: How does this year’s Masked Marvelous differ from previous years?
HT: Over the last couple of years we have been expanding our efforts to collaborate with the MFTA community and our members for the event. Our team of staff and volunteers do the decorating and preparation for the event. Now, we are looking to engage our members. Last year, for our 40th anniversary, the theme was “MFTA Through the Years.” We invited a handful of our recipient groups to decorate the aisles of our warehouse in the style of different decades from the 1970s to the 2000s. This year we are working with Shelton, who is transforming warehouse to reflect the five boroughs, he has also played a big role in selecting our entertainment.
MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working with MFTA?
HT: For me, it has been our growth over the years to include an education program that works with tens of thousands of students and teachers annually. Educating the public about the value of reuse and the importance of sustainability in their lives while we promote the arts has been my mission. I am so proud of the impact of our work and how it has helped to transform the NYC arts and cultural landscape.
MM: Where do you hope your career will be in ten years?
HT: Ha. Having been here for 21 years, I am not sure that my ‘career’ will be flourishing in ten years. I may be enjoying my grandchildren and hopefully doing some part time consulting and volunteering. Materials for the Arts will be thriving under new leadership and I will always be a fan.
MM: Are there any upcoming events that you would like to mention?
HT: Every Third Thursday of the month, MFTA hosts public programming which includes craft making, workshops, gallery exhibition openings, and artist talks. These events allow us to engage the NYC community in reuse artmaking and creative projects. Please check
our website materialsforthearts.org for updated information about our Third Thursday events. Our members may log on to mfta.org to schedule shopping appointments and manage their user accounts.
General Admission tickets are $125. Tickets can be purchased on the official MFTA website and proceeds go Friends of Materials for the arts here. Also feel free to follow them via the below: