Barnard Students Launch Community Arts Bin in Washington Heights

“We were having the conversation of: ‘Okay, we know that the center is not going to be built tomorrow, so what can we do now that really demonstrates what we want to do and shows the community what we value, what we’re interested in,’” said Warrick. “We were just kind of mentioning things and I was like, ‘What if we do a community fridge, but for art supplies?’”

Jimenez and Warick first reached out to various art supply retailers and secured donations from a few different stores, including BLICK Art Materials, the national art supply chain with a store in Central Harlem. Then, they followed up by emailing local bookstores and art galleries to gauge their interest in housing a bin. In a flash of serendipity, they received a reply from Veronica Santiago Liu, the founder of Word Up Books, a community-centered bookstore and arts space in Washington Heights that provides a host of resources and events for residents in Upper Manhattan.

During the pandemic, Word Up Books shut down operations, but eventually reopened with a focus on community outreach by providing mutual aid and partnering with New York City Health and Hospitals to provide COVID-19 testing. Recently, Santiago Liu soft-launched an auxiliary space at 876 Riverside Drive, about nine blocks from the bookstore, which is on Amsterdam Avenue and 165th Street. Santiago Liu, a graduate of Barnard’s class of 2002, thought the community arts bin was a perfect fit. 

“When Carolina and Sheila wrote with this idea, that it’s sort of like a community fridge but for art supplies, I thought it was brilliant. Besides your event that sells a book, you also just need all the stuff that gives you respite, that gives your mind space to clear,” said Santiago Liu. “Being able to provide hands on resources for that, with the pressure off that it is free to take, that you can give back to it if you want later, I think that it was a really great idea.” 

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