The Broker of Strange Things

Creative reuse center opens amid COVID-19 as treasure trove for reduce, reuse, recycle artists

Sarah Pierpont founded Resourceful Santa Fe to be a middleman between people who want to give things away and the artists who need them. (Katherine Lewin)

Tucked into an industrial street off Siler Road is a large collection of strange things in a small, unassuming warehouse. One room is full of scrap cloth and fabrics. There are boxes of vintage dolls and their small wooden beds, delicate china and a table full of arts and crafts tools and supplies, along with every color and style of pin and button.

There's even a "Vintage Ephemera" corner with yellowed postcards, black-and-white photographs and an old gas lamp.

The space, home to Resourceful Santa Fe since July, is the new storefront expansion of the nonprofit Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival. What was once an enormous yearly event at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center now has a retail component. Resourceful is open all year long to New Mexicans who want to get rid of unwanted things while reducing what goes into the landfill. It's also for artists who want to find unique recycled materials for their work.

Every item on the shelves and tables and spilling out of boxes at Resourceful has been carefully collected by the nonprofit founder, Sarah Pierpont, who is a self-described "broker of strange items" between the people who don't want them anymore and the artists who do. She also coordinated the Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival and its programs in schools for the last 15 years—a considerable undertaking—until this year.

Pierpont also has a long history of working in the state's reuse industry. She is the executive director of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition, an environmental advocacy group that helps businesses, schools and cities build recycling programs.

The idea of opening Resourceful at 2879 A Industrial Road as a creative reuse center for artists has been percolating in Pierpont for a while now but she never had the time to do it—until the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the 22nd annual Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival, the country's oldest and largest recycled material art market, scheduled for November. The popular festival normally attracts thousands of people to downtown Santa Fe each year and took up much of the free time Pierpont had to dedicate to her nonprofit work.

The cancellation combined with some of the unique consequences of a COVID-19 world created the unexpected opportunity to open Resourceful. For now, it has only limited donating and shopping hours on Tuesdays, from 1 pm to 3 pm, along with monthly yard sales and appointments.

Pierpont has big dreams for the space beyond what's available now, though she says COVID-19 has brought plenty of people to her door as they work on their art or affordable improvement projects while stuck at home.

The cancellation of 2020’s Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival gave Sarah Pierpont the time and space to open Resourceful. (Katherine Lewin)

"Our goal is to sell things at a really affordable level because we want to make it really accessible to everyone," Pierpont tells SFR. "I'd love to have regular hours and workshops and events and be a community space in a non-COVID world, which I think we'll get to that…People are doing a lot of projects, building projects, home improvement projects during the pandemic and I think if there's any way to not buy brand new material to do so."

Resourceful gets donations from all over the city—artists, residents and businesses alike. All contribute to the small warehouse's packed rooms.
Heather Van Luchene, a founding partner of HVL Interiors, an interior design firm in Santa Fe, has donated several SUV loads of fabrics, accent tiles and wood and flooring samples since Resourceful opened in July.

"When other organizations have been unable to accept our items, Resourceful Santa Fe has welcomed us with open arms, a community spirit and a mission of reduce, reuse, recycle," Van Luchene says. "Lots of supplies for creative minds."

Emily Rothschild, a part time artist who had a booth at the Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival for the last three years, has already used Resourceful four times for various projects, including her side business, which is making block printed prayer flags on recycled fabric. Her husband, a music teacher, also tagged along and found rolling metal racks perfect for holding guitars.

Rothschild has a great admiration for Pierpont's work in recycling and reuse in New Mexico and is excited to have Resourceful year round, versus the festival just once a year.

"She's just a conductor of goods, of helping people who want to make things with recycled materials, helping them get those materials, and then helping people who are like, 'What do I do with this instead of throwing it away?'" Rothschild tells SFR. "To have something ongoing year-round where people can make a pilgrimage just over to a local location and find something that they need or to get inspired, that just seems great to have that ongoing."

As far as Rothschild and Pierpont are concerned, there is nothing like Resourceful in Northern New Mexico. And especially not something like Resourceful starting up during a pandemic.

"Not many people would have the breadth of ability, like [Pierpont] has gotten donations from schools and old desks and stuff like that, but then also really cool materials from artists," Rothschild says. "She has that connection, that's what makes it really unique and in the end, the wherewithal to make this happen now during this pandemic and everything, that's really great."

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