Since 2009, ArtStock has been collecting tons of show sets. Materials saved from dumpsters and revalorized thanks to this Haut-Garonne association.
When he appears at the bend of a winding road in the country of Comminges, a good hour’s drive from Toulouse (Haute-Garonne), the last doubts are lifted. Sparkling and enigmatic, right next to a team of raging horses and gigantic firecracker red pipes, the sphinx guards the entrance to the ArtStock warehouse. All around this tutelary figure, rolls of synthetic lawn, hundreds of square meters of flooring and kilometers of scrap metal are stored. “This statue of the sphinx was recovered after the opera Aida, these roman columns come from the show Ben-Hur by Robert Hossein, at the Stade de France, and these pipes were used to create a factory for a show by the Opéra national du Capitole (formerly Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, Editor’s note) », says Alain Journet, site manager, by way of welcome.
In 2015, the ArtStock association invested in this former tile factory located in Blajan, a few kilometers from Saint-Gaudens, to pursue on a greater scale the mission it has assigned itself since its creation in 2009: to collect the decorations of the cultural and events sector to promote and reuse them. “At that time, when I created my shows, all the money went into sets and costumes. At the same time, I had friends who threw away miles of material, curtains, costumes, new decor elements,” remembers Yann Domenge, author, director, and co-founder of ArtStock. So, with Blasco Ruiz, head stagehand at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, they decided to put a stop to this waste.
In a castle or a living room
Fifteen years after the appearance of this practical and ecological idea, the association has become a key contact for cultural stakeholders who wish to reduce their carbon footprint.
Among its clients, we find museums, the Opéra national du Capitole, that of the Châtelet in Paris, but also Bobino and the Comédie-Française. On average, it receives nearly 800 tonnes of materials each year.
In the Blajan warehouses, this translates into rows of costumes, a giant elephant hanging from the ceiling, a monumental cathedral facade, the throne of a maharaja, Greek and Roman pillars galore or a Rolls driven by Cinderella. There are also tons of raw materials, wood, metal, curtains ready to be reused by other companies or DIY individuals. “With us, 95% of the materials and decorations collected are recycled. Recently, the organizers of a trade show bought carpet from us. A gigantic castle used for a play by the Robin Hood troupe has been sold to an amusement arcade in Lyon. In the end, out of the 800 tonnes collected, we have less than 2% of final waste,” says Alain Journet.
Over the years, ArtStock has expanded its customer base beyond traditional cultural circles. The association now works with renowned event companies and fashion houses. Fashion Week and its Parisian shows have even become one of the highlights of the year. “During this period, we can bring in seven semi-trailers in half a day. But mentalities are changing. Some fashion houses are starting to reuse carpets and decors,” notes Alain Journet.
Between the South and the Seine
However, materials are piling up in Blajan’s warehouse. “If we had 100,000 m2 more, we would fill it without problem. Currently, we are forced to refuse recoveries due to lack of space,” he continues. This observation prompted ArtStock to create a store in Saint-Gaudens. It will very soon host an integration workshop in which materials will be transformed into various objects. Above all, the association opened a new recycling center in Asnières-sur-Seine (Hauts-de-Seine), very close to Paris. “We have a lot of Parisian clients, major theaters, museums and other cultural players. This warehouse allows us to improve our carbon footprint, especially since we will transport the recoveries by river,” rejoices Yann Domenge who is preparing, for 2024, the first barge trip between Asnières and Toulouse, by the Seine and the Canal du Midi.
Recipes for success
- Space “The sinews of war are space,” says Alain Journet. By moving to the countryside, ArtStock benefits from a large storage area: 2,500 m2 indoors and 2,000 m2 outdoors.
- Valuation The association’s 11 employees are all experienced in sorting and recovering all types of materials.
- Swarming “The incoming flow is so strong that we must come together,” says Yann Domenge, at the origin of another initiative: Ressac, a national network which supports the establishment of cultural resource centers throughout France.