We recently interviewed alumnx Felice Gittelman (’20 VA) about her work with the volunteer-based creative reuse store Retake Remake. She spoke to us about the importance of reusing and recycling art materials and the magic of discovery. Read excerpts from our conversation below, and learn more about Felice and her art here.
Growing up in New York, mixed-media artist Felice Gittelman’s interest in the arts started with weekly trips to the Brooklyn Museum. Frequent youth art classes turned into a vast career (and multiple master’s degrees) in art education, art therapy, and special education. Upon retirement, Felice says, “I went right to VCFA. Now I could do what I wanted to do. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to really just discover.”
Graduating from VCFA took Gittelman straight into her latest venture: working with the Peekskill Art Alliance and Retake Remake.
Officially launched in February 2022, Retake Remake is a creative reuse haven for artists in Peekskill, NY. The practice of creative reuse, upcycling, and the like help to reduce art-based waste by diverting secondhand art materials from the landfill. Retake Remake sells at a reduced rate everything from one-dollar bags of lightly used crayons to books of vintage photographs.
“It’s really like a candy store,” Gittelman says. Artists of all ages and experience levels can explore the shelves of Retake Remake, register for Retake Remake workshops, and enjoy “free stuff” bins filled with odds and ends for their next great project.
As Gittelman explains, projects like Retake Remake offer numerous benefits to their community. “It’s a much more economically sound opportunity for all young families to be able to buy things at a quarter of what you would typically buy,” says Gittelman. Additionally, if you want to buy art supplies in Gittelman’s area, the options are “Michaels or Michaels. There is little opportunity for children to go to a place to actually feel something and see what it is and explore in that way and develop their curiosity.”
“I love to watch the little kids come in with their families and say ‘Oh, what is this? When would you use this? What can you do?’ That kind of creativity is what has always been a great passion for me.” Through her work at Retake Remake, Gittelman has helped artists find possibilities in all kinds of materials, from turning an umbrella into a dog toy to turning stretchers into canvases. “Just because you’ve discarded it yourself doesn’t mean it’s not valuable to somebody else.”
As a mixed-media artist herself—who has worked with everything from sculpting, to stitching, to collage, and more—Gittelman says there is something truly special about using the materials you have available around you to make art. “Well, for me, it has a deep psychological meaning in growing up feeling that you were limited by your circumstances. I had to share a room with my brother until I was 16. I had to leave Brooklyn as a senior. But when you have things that you can work with that are within your world, you have control over what these things could be, and you have the element of surprise.” Gittelman explains that, with mixing materials, your piece can often become “the possibilities of what could be.”
In addition to the immense amount of creative freedom happening at Retake Remake, Gittelman adds that, from when the shop first launched in February 2022 to April 2022, they helped divert 10,000 pounds of waste from the landfill. Gittelman notes that “There is a big world out there of people who are environmentally mindful and want to participate in a way that they can manage. So this is really wonderful.”
For those looking to get involved in their own creative reuse or upcycling project like Retake Remake, Gittelman encourages lots of research and to start your journey by “exploring different sites and talking to people who actually have operations.” And for those who want to start by dropping by Retake Remake, you can learn more at retake-remake.org.