Scraps KC, a nonprofit store at 3269 Roanoke Road, sells an eclectic collection of art supplies, decor, ephemera, offbeat furnishings and other unusual objects.
The nonprofit, which bills itself as Kansas City’s first creative reuse center, is an exercise in social entrepreneurism that repurposes donated art supplies and found objects and sells them to provide hope for the homeless. That hope comes in the form of jobs, clothing, necessities and connections.
“This is a place for anybody and everybody,” says Brenda Mott, Scraps KC’s founder and executive director. “We have volunteers from all walks of life: adults with disabilities, students, teachers and the homeless all working here.”
The customers also span the spectrum and include crafters, accomplished artists, teachers and students.
“We have jewelry designers, painters, sculptors,” Mott says. “The (Kansas City) Art Institute refers students to us.”
About a year ago, after outgrowing its 4,000-square-foot home in the West Bottoms, Mott and her crew moved Scraps KC to its current 13,500-square-foot facility. The block structure is divided by pony walls and party streamers and is not air conditioned. It does hold heat in the winter — a draw for the homeless people Scraps KC serves.
Scraps KC works to inspire creativity in art and education.
“Brenda has created an incredible community, resource and creative space,” says Stacy Cahalan of Blue Raddish, a design studio in Overland Park. “I can’t walk in there and not leave inspired and invested in another project.”
The nonprofit also works to enlighten customers about how the process of making affects the environment. Scraps KC advocates for reusing and repurposing over recycling, and accepts thousands of permanent ink markers annually. The markers that can be sent back to schools are cleaned and donated to teachers every May.
Mott estimates more than 1,000 hours of volunteer work go into repurposing supplies that then don’t have to be purchased by teachers.
Markers that don’t make grade are shredded and put into color coordinated containers. Then, they’re made into letters, mats and other decor. The casings become jump-rope handles, and the interior cartridges are extracted.
“We spend time sharing with our students the costs of recycling,” Mott says. “Trucks have to pick up the materials; water and electric-burning factories have to re-manufacture them and then (they’re) delivered by more trucks... Most people that come here never think about the carbon footprint recycling puts on the planet.”
Scraps KC estimates it has diverted more than 47 tons of materials from landfills.
The store is also a light manufacturer: There is a shredder, an injection mold machine, and an oven. There is also a party room, a small kitchen for staff and a fabric room.
Mott says she wants to challenge students — particularly kids to be creative.
She has a theory: “The latchkey kids have not learned to be creative. We’ve left them inside and they don’t look at the world with the same inquisitiveness earlier generations did.”
“We were going outside as soon as we got home from school and played well into the night,” Mott adds. “Ask (modern-day kids) to find the spring in a pen and they have no idea where to start, to understand that something as simple as a retractable pen is a machine.”
Cahalan tries to teach her kids to use their creativity and imagination. Her family lives in Overland Park but also spends a lot of time in an 800-square-foot farmhouse north of Excelsior Springs.
“It’s our remote art studio,” she says. “We do a lot of family projects there — stuff from Scraps KC that inspires family creativity.”
During a recent visit to Scraps KC, volunteers and paid part-time staffers prepared fabric for resale. The women cleaned, cut, measured and priced the material before it hit the shelf. It’s not unusual for the team to tackle 2,000 pounds of donated fabric at one time.
“It’s an artist’s dream come true — a thrift store for artists,” she says. “The amount of savings is impossible to calculate.”
Scraps KC operates on the funds generated by sales, grants and donations, but more is needed to support its growth. To that end, the facility is presenting its inaugural ReVision Fashion Show from 5 to 9 p.m. October 12. Tickets are available online and start at $20.
The fashion show will highlight creations by two dozen designers who used items from the store or materials they already owned. Nothing new or purchased can be used.
“This is not clothing meant to be worn, but invented by artists to explore the media,” McCann says.
And it’s in that exploration, Mott adds, that art and the artists who make it break down barriers.
“Everyone is welcome here,” she says. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from.”