New Haven (August 31, 2010) - Designed to enliven the City's commercials districts, "Project Storefronts" launched today. Project Storefronts encourages artists and "creative entrepreneurs" to test the viability of new creative and arts-related retail and other businesses by providing access to empty retail spaces. The Department of Cultural Affairs is leading this initiative with funding from the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven (EDC), and in partnership with the City of New Haven's Office of Economic Development and Ninth Square property owner Related Properties. Artists and other creative entrepreneurs are opening their doors in the old United Way space at 71 Orange Street in the Ninth Square.
Many cities across the nation and abroad are seizing the opportunity provided by this current economic downturn to imaginatively utilize community resources by matching entrepreneurial artists, creative entrepreneurs with collaborative property owners with vacant spaces. "While many cities around the country have transformed empty retail spaces into galleries or utilized empty store windows as static sites for art installations, New Haven has taken this concept one step farther," says Barbara Lamb, the City's Director of Cultural Affairs. "By creating Project Storefronts, empty commercial spaces will be temporarily transformed into low-budget arts incubators for performances, education, retail or other creative businesses."
Working with the Small Business managers from the City's Office of Economic Development, as well as through the city's Economic Development Corporation, the Department of Cultural Affairs' new program is designed to help guide creative start-up entrepreneurs learn about business while test marketing the viability of their business ideas. "Artists, creative technology professionals and entrepreneurs that are part of what is known as the creative economy are a major driver of economic growth in our City," stated Kelly Murphy, Economic Development Administrator. "Project Storefronts is an important instrument for the promotion of the creative economy in New Haven."
"Project Storefronts demonstrates the best of New Haven -- our arts community, our thriving downtown and our entrepreneurial spirit," says Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. "Project Storefronts takes currently vacant retail space and turns that space into a showcase for artists and entrepreneurship."
While the Department of Cultural Affairs is launching Project Storefronts in the Ninth Square there will be at least one other neighborhood location for a Project Storefronts site. The Department of Cultural Affairs has been out reviewing potential sites in various commercial districts and intends to launch a second Project Storefronts site during 2011.
The First Storefront Artists
Among the first storefronts to open is Detritus which opened its doors to the public with a soft opening last Friday, August 27. Owner Alexis Zhangi developed her idea for a curated bookstore offering printed matter from local artists and writers alongside rare and sought after material from high profile publishing houses not yet available in the New Haven area. The bookstore will bring together many writers and poets at its upcoming readings and book events. It has a membership option as well as a retail operation. More than 200 people showed up for her opening and sales were brisk.
Crosby Street Gallery (CSG) by entrepreneur Rob Sanchez is essentially a "pop up" gallery and performance space which showcases early and emerging artists in new media, photography and sculpture, offering very affordable ways to collect art. CSP will also formulate an emerging collectors night where artists and future collectors can come together. Work will be available across price ranges from local New Haven area artists as well as from NYC.
For those who enjoy the experience of seeing recycled goods recreated into new products, Upcycle Arts, started by entrepreneurs Ruben Marroquin, Lisa Spetrini and Alan Neider, is just the place. Upcycle Arts represents a variety of artists who offer re-stylized, recycled items for sale in a retail setting and it will also serve as a mini eco-boutique of products by award winning design team GG2G. Upcycle Arts will offer workshops, host gatherings for crafting groups and meet-ups for art special interest groups.
Upcycle Arts along with GG2G are in the process of creating a new up-scale crafting group Elm City Handmade. Elm City Handmade was recently formally accepted as an Etsy "street team". Well known as an on-line retail outlet, Etsy (www.etsy.com) represents thousands of creative products made by artists from around the world. Many large cities have Etsy "street teams" which collectively market and expand their product offerings. Workshops, events and classes will be available to the public.
The Grove, a new kind of social space for entrepreneurs interested in the concept of co-working and creative business incubation, has been created by Slate Ballard and Ken Janke. The Grove provides counseling and other support on a day-to-day basis to fledgling entrepreneurs involved in creative businesses. The Grove founders were already seeking ways to start this business in New Haven given New Haven's concentration of creative industries. The opportunity to work with Project Storefronts enabled The Grove to launch much sooner.
Project Storefronts first home is within the Ninth Square development. Ninth Square is owned and managed by Related Companies. Their support for this project was essential. Related is providing the entrepreneurs/artists with free use of the currently vacant retail space while awaiting a new retailers. “We saw an opportunity with Project Storefronts to promote new retail uses to our Ninth Square development. Project Storefronts will promote more visitors to the Ninth Square which provides higher visibility for these retails spaces and at the same time, promotes new patrons”, remarked Tom Evan. Starting with a three month commitment, Related has indicated the possibility of extensions to the lease should the spaces not rent within that time. Meanwhile, the Project Storefronts manager, Margaret Bodell, who works under contract to the City of New Haven, helps to promote the availability of the space to prospective tenants. “While I would hate to leave this beautiful space in the historic Ninth Square anytime soon, the overall goal of the project is to help energize the City’s commercial district and drive potential renters to see them,” Bodell stated.
The Economic Development Corporation of New Haven provided $30,000 in funding to help launch this initiative. "The value of this investment was immediately clear as it is in keeping with our mission to spur entrepreneurial activity in New Haven, and hopefully inspire new home-grown businesses" remarked Anne Haynes, the EDC's new CEO. With other openings, classes and workshops planned for both day and evening hours, as well as daily operations, it is anticipated that this project will send thousands into the Ninth Square, increasing activity for other area cultural amenities, stores and restaurants. The investment is helping to cover the cost of utilities, signage, and simple fit-out expenses for paint, lighting, shelving and storage as well as insurance.
The Dept. also partners with the Office of Economic Development, which works with artist entrepreneurs who want to develop business plans and with the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, who will offer an Entrepreneurial Workshop on Wednesday, Oct. 6th in the storefronts common area. For more information visit www.newhavenarts.org or call 203-772-2788.
The City of New Haven's Department of Cultural Affairs is dedicated to enhancing the City's quality of life and supporting its economic development through the production of events, the commissioning of public art and assisting and promoting New Haven's many artists and cultural organizations.