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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

‘Think a little bit differently’: first non-profit Creative Reuse Centre opens in Victoria

SUPPLY Victoria’s new centre aims to divert used art materials from the landfill back into the hands of artists

Arts
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

‘Think a little bit differently’: first non-profit Creative Reuse Centre opens in Victoria

SUPPLY Victoria’s new centre aims to divert used art materials from the landfill back into the hands of artists

Ashley Howe, executive director of SUPPLY Victoria, has been setting up the new Creative Reuse Centre ahead of its opening on Saturday. Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily
Ashley Howe, executive director of SUPPLY Victoria, has been setting up the new Creative Reuse Centre ahead of its opening on Saturday. Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily
Arts
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

‘Think a little bit differently’: first non-profit Creative Reuse Centre opens in Victoria

SUPPLY Victoria’s new centre aims to divert used art materials from the landfill back into the hands of artists

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‘Think a little bit differently’: first non-profit Creative Reuse Centre opens in Victoria
Ashley Howe, executive director of SUPPLY Victoria, has been setting up the new Creative Reuse Centre ahead of its opening on Saturday. Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily

The old 1939 art deco building on the corner of Fairfield Road and Blanshard Street doesn’t really have an official title, but Ashley Howe, executive director of SUPPLY Victoria, has begun calling it the Victoria Arts Hub.

It’s a fitting name. As you walk in at the Fairfield entrance, you’re immediately greeted on the left by the Victoria Tool Library across the hall from the artist-run Ministry of Casual Living gallery and studios. Down the hall, a large vault that formerly held maps now holds the aptly named Vault Gallery. All in, the building is now home to more than 70 artist studios and multiple arts and culture organizations. 

As of Saturday, it will also officially house SUPPLY Victoria’s Creative Reuse Centre—essentially a thrift store for art supplies. There are over 130 non-profit centres like this in the US, Howe said, but only a handful in Canada. SUPPLY’s Creative Reuse Centre will be the first non-profit centre in BC. 

The 1939 art deco building formerly housed the Ministry of Power and Forestry. Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily

“Part of what I’m trying to do here is to get people to think a little bit differently about their waste, and to see the inherent value that’s in these materials,” Howe said. “When you reuse something, you not only reduce the energy waste and materials needed to create new things, you also reduce the greenhouse gasses caused by putting it in the landfill.”

When I visited earlier in the week, the hallways were filled with boxes; stacks of donated art and office supplies from paints to paper to pencils sat waiting to be organized, merchandised, and priced. The 1,200-square-foot space includes two side rooms: the pink room that has more vintage, rare, curated items, as well as paints and barely used art supplies; the larger purple room that has more affordable office supplies, craft books, and sewing and knitting materials. On the wall in the larger of the two rooms hangs rolls of coloured vinyl salvaged from signage shops that would otherwise throw it away. 

The purple room has everything from office supplies to crafting books to serwing and knitting materials. Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily

“Teachers love it; they use it in their Cricut machines,” Howe said, pointing to the vinyl. “I do outreach to businesses, glean materials from their local waste, and accept donations of used art supplies and other interesting creative materials.”

Howe has been gathering these odds and ends from the community since she launched SUPPLY around the time she moved to Victoria in 2018. Having worked at a similar reuse centre in Portland, Oregon, called Scrap, she knew she wanted to start a similar non-profit of her own. Victoria, home to one of the highest concentrations of artists in Canada, seemed like the perfect spot for the venture. Her goal also aligned with the City of Victoria’s Zero Waste Plan with a target of reducing landfill waste in the city by 50% by 2040.

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Through accepting donations and providing free materials to community art projects, as well as giving away materials at their former North Park pop-up location, SUPPLY has so far diverted 2,000 pounds of materials from landfill into the hands of local artists, students, and teachers. With the new location, she hopes to divert 4,000 pounds in its first year of operation. 

Howe says artists oftentimes don’t need brand new, top-quality materials to make incredible art—what they need is access to good, usable, inspiring materials. The median income of artists is 45% lower than that of Canadian workers, so low-cost options can prove a godsend for creators. Likewise, students often struggle to afford their own art supplies, Howe said, and teachers often pay for their own classroom materials out of their own pocket. 

“Hundreds of pounds of materials are needlessly going into the landfill every year. So we leverage Victoria’s reusable waste, and put it into the hands of the people that need them.”

The pink room that has more vintage, rare, curated items, as well as paints and barely used art supplies. Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily

Deborah Shepherd, program coordinator of UVic’s English Language Centre (ELC), is one of many material recipients through the non-profit’s Material Grant Program. In 2019, the international students at the ELC volunteered at the District of Saanich’s Family Day art event by manning a table where families could decorate large paper bags. SUPPLY donated and lent them scrapbooking materials, rubber stamps, and other crafting items for the day. 

“We had a very busy table at the event,” Shepherd said. “It was so interactive. Our students were really able to have conversations with the kids and adults and practice their English.”

Beyond the Creative Reuse Centre and the grant program, SUPPLY also leads hands-on events to teach both kids and adults about making art with reclaimed materials. Soon, the Fairfield Road space will also be rentable for $25 per hour. 

Howe says the space will be “ever-evolving and shifting,” and she is excited for this next step in the non-profit’s journey. 

On Saturday from 11am to 1pm, SUPPLY (at 750 Fairfield Rd.) will offer free crafting activities led by Women in Need, The Dock Centre for Social Impact, and the Victoria Arts Council. The rest of the building will also be open for an Open Studio Tour from 1 to 6pm. 

Correction on July 2 at 11:40am: A previous version of this story stated that SUPPLY's Creative Reuse Centre is the first reuse centre of its kind in BC, when it is in fact the first non-profit reuse centre.

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