Knox students may be familiar with the painted trash cans seen on downtown Galesburg street corners, but few may know that the organization partially responsible for their decoration was a business run last year by Knox alum Liliana Coelho ‘18.
Coelho took a Winter Term community economic development class, and by the time it was summer she was listening to Galesburg residents to learn how her business could best serve the community.
Named the Bluebrick Collective, Coelho and four of her classmates crowdfunded for their business throughout the spring Startup Term. After conversations with the Galesburg Heart and Soul project, interviews at local Galesburg high schools and group meetings in The Box, Bluebrick’s intention went through several different iterations.
“What kept coming up was that there was a wanting for a space for after school hours for young adults to hang out in, and that was defined pretty broadly,” Coelho said.
Bluebrick first started as an apprenticeship program to help Galesburg residents refurbish empty downtown buildings, thus imparting job skills and a residential or business space of their own, but the intent eventually shifted to focus on providing a studio space not just for individuals, but for the whole community.
Over the course of last summer, Bluebrick facilitated workshops and classes in The Box taught by Galesburg residents, for Galesburg residents. People high-school aged, college aged and much older attended classes on papermaking, zine making, photography, brush lettering, dance improv, photography, as well as live music concerts.
While Bluebrick was facilitated by Knox students and faculty, thanks to professor and Chair of Art Department Mark Holmes allowing Bluebrick to be located in The Box, Coelho said she wanted Bluebrick to be more than just a summer project for Knox students.
“A lot of what made it more successful is that we were asking a lot of questions of what residents wanted … ‘What do you see for Galesburg? How can we be a part of that?’ Instead I think a lot of the times Knox students maybe see Galesburg … as a place to experiment their projects on, instead of a place where people like live and work and are really committed to for more than four years,” Coelho said.
Understanding Galesburg to be a place affiliated with more than just a school setting is something Knox senior Emily Hagerott is working to convey as a Knox Corp associate of the Galesburg Chamber of Commerce.
The Galesburg Chamber of Commerce advocates for the health of businesses in the area and connects residents to resources. Through Knox Corps, Hagerott has worked on a variety of projects on talent retention in the Galesburg community and building relationships between Knox students and local businesses. Hagerott joined Knox Corp her freshman year.
“I really liked that Knox Corps was a chance to get off campus and out into Galesburg — I felt sort of disconnected at that point and I wanted to feel like this was my home too,” Hagerott said.
Hagerott writes guide material for the Knox student body about what is happening in the Galesburg area, the benefits of living here and the host of local and independent businesses. She hopes getting this kind of fun and practical information in front of students during freshman year can foster a connection with Galesburg and a sense of home.
Hagerott has also communicated with local business owners on how to use the Knox Career and Volunteer Center, and how to recruit Knox students. Ultimately, Hagerott hopes to diminish negative stereotypes Galesburg residents may have of Knox students surrounding privilege and wealth, just as she wants to diminish stereotypes Knox students may have of Galesburg residents.
“People recognize the whole isn’t true of everyone but I think we have made a lot of effort toward bridging that gap. But we are trying to get just a little bit closer to that goal,” Hagerott said.
Coelho echoed similar thoughts on the history of involvement between Knox and Galesburg.
“I think that both Galesburg and Knox as entities really want to engage with each other … and I think that how things play out, that maybe isn’t recognized as often, is class differences,” Coelho said. “I think that’s with Galesburg within itself but also between Knox and between Galesburg, something that can be explored further.”