Intent on fostering an environment for creative collaboration for their StartUp term, members of Bluebrick Collective figure that the best way to do this while encouraging economic development is through providing a place for open studio hours where people can come in and make art and collaborate with other artists.
Located at The Box on 306 E. Simmons St., the space will open on June 15 and will be open Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Senior Liliana Coelho formed the idea after taking a Community Economic Development class with Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology Teresa Gonzales which required her to develop her own economic development plan in connection with the Heart and Soul organizing project in Galesburg. After talking to senior Emily Trevor, who has a self designed major in Arts Management, the two decided they wanted to pursue a project in Galesburg that deals with the arts.
Coelho and Trevor soon came into contact with three others: junior Bridget McCarthy, junior Summer Fujii and junior Larisha Dhakal, who formed a team and started planning for their project.
In the studio space, members of the community would have the opportunity to use the materials provided to create freely, without the pressure of an academic setting. Coelho noted that they also plan to offer skill-based projects that engage the community and encourage collaboration.
For McCarthy, the emphasis of this project lies in its collaborative nature. Refusing to accept arts as lonesome pursuits, she feels that collaboration allows for creative projects to have infinite possibilities.
“One of the things that is the most critical in creating a creative project of any kind is working with other people, so we’re really interested in creating a venue for that and creating connectivity between different arts organizations, different people, local businesses and people in general,” she said.
Eventually, McCarthy hopes to see the organization form into a larger mentorship program, aimed at teaching applicable skills in a way that is accessible to the community. She mentions that one of their ideas is a refurbishment project, which would pair people with professionals such as plumbers or carpenters, and allow them to work together to refurbish houses. Not only will this be valuable to the individual, it will also allow the houses to be rended back into the community in a way that is inexpensive and accessible.
Though she doesn’t undermine the value of art in an academic setting, McCarthy considers the flexibility of creating without a concrete deadline to be one of the highlights of the collective.
“Classes at Knox and at the high school are great because they encourage you to create and also give you reasons to be doing things, even if that reason is a deadline,” she said. “But this also provides a space where they can hold themselves accountable and be creative because they want to, not because they have a deadline to meet.”
Dhakal also feels that the process of creating the collective has benefitted from being a collaborative project not only between Bluebrick and other organizations, but between the members of Bluebrick Collective themselves. She emphasized that the group has been able to delegate certain tasks to members that specialize in different aspects of creating the business.
She mentioned that the collective held a forum a few weeks ago, and that about 30 artists and interested people attended to discuss the project and what direction it could go towards. Ultimately, Dhakal is interested in translating the benefits of this organization to economic terms, and to illustrate how it will benefit the economic pace.
For Coelho, the current goal is growth and financial stability. In addition, she hopes to continue finding connections for young people in Galesburg.
“A thriving community has a thriving young adult scene. I think that that overall adds to the economic development and possibility of Galesburg by having a strong and supported young adult population here,” she said.
Though the process isn’t complete, the members of the collective feel that this experience has taught them a lot about starting a business as well as the opportunities available in Galesburg.
“On a personal note, one thing I learned from this is that starting a business is really hard, but it’s really, really rewarding,” McCarthy said. “So all of the little victories are not the type of things you hear about when you hear of entrepreneurs. The nitty-gritty details are so much more interesting even though they’re much more complicated.”
Having no prior experience with business, Coelho feels that the hands-on approach to learning how to handle business has worked out better for her than taking a course in business might have.
“I never took any business classes throughout Knox, and so to be learning this from my peers is a really great introduction for me personally,” Coelho said. “Business would not have gone over so well if I had been taking a class maybe, but learning it from my team has been amazing.”