The Elon community’s new handmade art cooperative is all about variety. There is diversity in the type of art displayed, the make-up of the contributing artists and the demographics of the people purchasing the art. It’s this diverse involvement and relationship with the local community that attracts the Elon University students involved with the art co-op.
“We’re hoping to attract both Elon community members and Burlington area members, so bridging that gap between the ‘Elon bubble’ and Burlington area, where no one really ventures out to as much,” said sophomore Brittany Graham, who recently jumped on board with the co-op to help plan the first event.
The cooperative’s first art showcase was held Sunday, April 15 at Company Shops Market, a food co-op in downtown Burlington. Just as Graham had hoped, the event attracted both Elon students and members of the Burlington community.
Sophomore Meredith Rose and junior Caroline Taylor stopped by to check out the display and to support the new art cooperative. Jennifer Hodges, who lives down the street from Company Shops Market, said she enjoys anything that allows people to demonstrate their creativity.
“I just enjoy seeing all the pretty things, and the fact that people are so creative when you tap into it, it’s just amazing,” she said.
Four Elon students, an Elon faculty member and three community members contributed the art that was for sale, which ranged from wooden carvings to wine bottle lamps and sculptures.
“We always want more (art), but this is a great start,” said sophomore Samantha Italiano, one of the four Elon students who founded the cooperative. “We haven’t even been around for three months, so I think it’s a pretty great turn out. We hope to get some more artists involved, but we also need owners and people who want to buy art.”
Italiano and the three other founders, sophomores Mat Goldberg, Sara McLaughlin and Megan Rollins, are not strangers to the concept of cooperatives. All four took Community Empowerment, a sophomore Leadership Fellows class taught by adjunct professor Patrick Harman during Winter Term, where they came up with ideas for cooperatives in the Burlington area.
“(Harmon) taught us different strategies about how to get involved in the community and make a difference, and the first day of class our project was to create a co-op that the Burlington community could use,” Goldberg said. “We took everything that he taught us and the tools and lessons and different paradigms of our learning and are working to make it a reality.”
The concept of an art cooperative differs from that of an art sale because of the opportunity of involvement. Anyone can become a lifetime owner of the cooperative for a one-time fee of $75, which entitles he or she to discounts on the art and signs them up to receive newsletters and promotional items. Contributing artists who decide to become owners also receive an increase in their share of the profit. For non-owners, the split is 40/60, with the artist receiving 40 percent of the profit and the cooperative receiving the rest. The split is 50/50 for owners.
The money the cooperative receives is being collected to provide for future endeavors, Goldberg said. In particular, the founders hope to open a store front, and the money will be put towards rent and supplies.
Italiano, who is interested in performing arts, said she looks forward to expanding the co-op beyond the fine arts. She hopes they will be able to offer classes and performances.
“We envision this to become an art center and not just a one-day art event,” Goldberg said. "We see the world as our oyster. There are a lot of possibilities.”