If abundance mirrors accomplishment, MECCA’s storefront reflects unrestrained success: rows of shelves and boxes overflowing with recycled fabrics, brushes, yarns, glues, colored paper, egg cartons, bottles, tiles, paints, jewelry, magazines, and countless knickknacks, bric-a-brac, doodads, and thingamajigs. Donated materials arrive nonstop, sometimes by the truckload. MECCA (Materials Exchange Center for the Community Arts) is an expanding universe of low-cost and no-cost art supplies.
Heather Williams is the executive director and principal traffic manager for MECCA. She coordinates people, and stuff. The stuff includes a relentless stream of art materials flowing through the organization’s small storefront, workshop space, charter school, and tiny warehouse. “One thing I’m always trying to do is make sure stuff goes out as fast as it comes in,” Williams says, “otherwise we have to stop taking donations because we’re full up.”
There are plenty of ways to quantify MECCA’s accomplishments over the past few years. For example, success can be measured by weight: 119,000 pounds of materials diverted from the waste stream since 2010; 69,000 pounds diverted last year alone, including 16,000 pounds of free materials passed on to Lane County educators.
Success can also be measured via educational opportunities: 82,000 Lane County students provided access to art materials; 548 schools and other local organizations provided with resource support; 82 pay-as-you-can workshops provided to members of the community.
Then there are the many volunteers. They consult on and coordinate special projects. Volunteers are MECCA’s lifeblood.
Abundance may just be a fair measure of MECCA’s efforts to successfully re-imagine and repurpose materials that inspire art and creativity. According to Williams, storefront growth over the past few years has inspired grand visions of increased workshops, greater community outreach, and more attention to promoting the value of creative recycling and affordable art. But growth, cautions Williams, also needs to be smart.
“I just want to keep doing what we’re doing,” says Williams. “And do it well.”