It’s difficult for one to ignore that the landscape, skyline and culture of the Bronx is undergoing some changes. This most certainly applies to the southern portion of the borough with new housing, eateries and shops popping up in places once deemed uninhabitable. One such place looking to add to the artistic flavor the one true borough has offered the globe is The Shoppe BX located on Lincoln Avenue in the Port Morris section.
“I kind of got the boutique to showcase local artists”, explained the shop’s owner Jamie Jones. “But also to rebuild my business after getting hit by the storm (Hurricane Sandy) and I had to figure out a way to save the store. A couple of us came up with this idea about starting an artist cooperative because we were already doing the artist market out in front (of the store).”
The cooperative Jones – a self-described artistic “jack of all trades” – speaks of is a plan to have a worker-owned and controlled entity which will display the talent of local artists residing in the area. Part of the plan is also to provide a community oriented support system for both established and emerging artists on the scene. In addition to this the plan for the artist cooperative would call for a 1,000 square foot multi-purpose exhibition space; which is more than double the size the one Jones had worked with prior to Superstorm Sandy.
In order to see this plan come to life Jones, along with her partner Edith Harper, needed to begin raising the funds and make a few things a happen. One of those things was gaining entry into the Green Worker Cooperative Academy. According to the academy’s website this program is described as an intensive sixteen week training and support boot camp designed to aid aspiring entrepreneurs develop worker-owned green businesses. To bolster their efforts Jamie and Edith recently held a “silent auction” earlier this month at Charlies Bar & Kitchen across the street from the print shop. At the auction patrons had the chance to bid on items such as tattoo work, canoe trips down the Bronx River and iMac’s. They could also make donations on the Go Fund Me page created by the women. So far $1,145 has been raised towards the initial goal of $5,000 and donations are still being accepted.
“We won’t be out of that training until the end of February”, Jamie shared with regard to her work with the Green Worker Academy. “After that we get setup with attorneys and grant writers. We then file the paperwork for the 501 (c). So this is all being done the right way. So we’re really excited about it because the smaller picture is just to kind of secure the space and make sure that we can use it to continue to showcase local artists. The bigger picture would be to expand it so we can develop this artist haven.”
Regardless of how big or small the venue is or what medium is being used to depict their message Jones and Harper are on the verge of getting their point across to the public. They have what appears to be a clear cut vision when it comes to the plans of The Shoppe BX when it comes to the present and the future. An artist haven housed inside a part of New York City which has – in the past and continues to do so – contributed to heavily to the art world while being misunderstood globally is a welcomed idea. One that may just open the eyes of outsiders who still believe the borough is still in ruin when in fact it has been flourishing all along.