GOSHEN — A community of like-minded artists wanting to enhance their creative careers have pooled their talents to open a co-op to do so.
The Local Co. 132 in downtown Goshen has been open for a few weeks and features a retail space, studios and equipment artists can collectively use.
“I do the macramé,” said Ashley Swartzendruber as she pointed out the eclectic art products in the retail space at 132 S. Main St. She also creates other fiber art items.
She is one of more than 20 artists displaying their work in the gallery.
Not every creation can be placed on the shelves or hung on the walls. According to the artists, the artwork is sorted out, or “juried” by a co-op committee. The intent is to keep quality pieces flowing through the store to the buying public.
“I was really excited by the opportunity to have a studio because I did it all from my house to start,” Swartzendruber said.
Her customers have been using their smartphones and computers to browse her online Etsy store. Now they can swing the door to 132 open, hear the tinkle of the service bell, and then walk around to touch and feel her fiber work.
Another 132 artist, Hannah Lehman, said she finds the collaborative atmosphere in the building provides positive reinforcement.
“It’s comfortable being with people who think like you,” she said. “And super, super inspiring in that way. It was definitely the right choice to come and move in here with all these people.” Lehman uses her wit and motor skills to draw illustrations that liven up an ordinary wedding invitation into something colorful and special.
She also dyes her own textiles and produces origami-inspired wall hangings.
Beyond the artwork, the co-op members rotate manning the cash register and interacting with customers for eight hours per week.
“We are really, really trying to make it a cooperative space where a lot of people are involved, where not one person has the end all, be all say in things,” Lehman explained. “We are really focusing on working together and making decisions together.”
There are seven studios in the building, according to Swartzendruber and Lehman. An eighth may be coming. That means artists are on site a lot, and people can connect with them to request custom orders.
“People are more than welcome to stop in and talk to any of us,” Lehman said.
MORE THAN VISUAL
Customers entering the shop get an eyeful of beautiful and interesting things when they open the front door. But after a couple of steps another sensory joy is experienced — the smell of fresh flowers.
Behind a wall holding artwork displays, Phoebe Brubaker, owner of Flowers by Phoebe, snips and clips leaves and stems and inserts brightly hued flowers into vases in just the right order to create a blended bouquet.
Brubaker was the first artist to occupy 132. She moved her shop from Washington Street to the co-op in August.
“With the floral business taking off the way it is, I didn’t have time to focus on all the retail all the time,” Brubaker said, “So, it allows us to only focus in on what we do best, which is flowers, and locally grown flowers at that. For me this has been a godsend.”
The new floral space is larger she said, and solves her shop’s growth problem.
She will also be able to work more often with local potters and use their creations to display her flowers.
“I am a collaborative person,” Brubaker said. “I tend to get a lot of joy and energy from it, so it has been really nice.”
Some of the artists who have studios at 132 joked with photographer Grant Longenbaugh when he stopped in, describing him as one of the co-op’s “wild” artists.
“Wild,” in this instance was not a critique of his lifestyle, but was a description of being a local artist who works elsewhere and displays their art at the co-op.
“Community artist might be better," Longenbaugh joked. "I’m not that wild.”
Settling into an assessment of the new space, he added, “It’s great to have another great arts destination on Main Street,” mentioning Goshen is a community that embraces art and artists.
He said the co-op’s shop is “nicely curated and well displayed. It is an honor to have my work showed next to some of the amazing Goshen artists.”
Amy Worsham, who is the city’s arts coordinator and also operates her custom printing business using vintage letterpress equipment in the rear of the building, said creating a nonprofit co-op was a vision of the city’s original arts council.
“When Tavi moved out, it became apparent to me that this was a great spot to test out that vision,” Worsham said.
She was referring to Tavi Mounsithiraj, who operated a framing shop and gallery in the storefront. Worsham said he is working to reopen his store in another downtown location.
“We immediately had a lot of artists on board who were really excited about being a part of the program,” she said.
There are eight resident artists in the studio spaces, Worsham said. More than 20 from around the community are displaying their work.
“We actually have a stack of applications that we haven’t even had a chance to let them know we would love to have their work in the space, because we have been so busy with other stuff.”
“Basically, how the program works is we are designed to meet the needs of creatives and artists in the area kind of at every level of their career,” Worsham said.
That includes the retail space when they progress to that point. There are also the private studios. In addition, there is shared equipment artists can use when needed.
Co-op members also invite accomplished artists to mentor less-experienced creators, she said.
The reception in the arts community for the co-op idea has been strong, she added.
“We are really excited to have a large community of artists supporting the program,” Worsham said, “As it definitely is one of the hopes I had for bringing to Goshen for a long time.”