For Brandi Jones, the founder of Black Village Arts (BVA), an emerging, independent, multi-purpose art store based in New York City, there is a glaring absence of Black-owned art stores available to people. Frankly, some communities of color lack the resources to fund arts education.
Raised in Queens, NY, the 23-year-old entrepreneur is an advocate for the arts and recognizes its importance in the development of Black youth.
“I was one of the lucky ones that was blessed to always have the arts in my life,” says Jones, an alumna of LaGuardia High School and a recent graduate from the BFA Dance program at SUNY Purchase.
“A lot of people who look like me don’t have that and they need to understand that they can do this and that there is a space for you to express yourself in the arts.”Brandi Jones, founder of Black Village Arts
How Jones launched Black Village Arts, a Black-owned art store
Having officially launched in August, the platform first started as an idea only a week before coming to fruition. In the midst of the pandemic and the #BlackLivesMatter protests, something in Jones felt stagnant — a common feeling due to the stress of this year’s political and economic situation.
Combining her knowledge of the arts and passion for uplifting Black youth, Black Village Arts was born.
“I’m an empathetic person and I always correlate my empathy directly to my creativity. I felt like I wanted to do more.”Brandi Jones
Black Village Arts’ recent projects
Despite its recent launch, BVA has actively immersed itself in uplifting underprivileged communities.
Its first major project: to reinvent the storefront of GameStation, a Black, veteran-owned small business in Queens.
The owner survived a 5-week coma due to COVID-19 and awoke to the danger of his business closing down. With the goal of making his store more noticeable, BVA was commissioned by BlaQue Resource Network to design a storefront to attract the public.
Other projects of the Black-owned art store included working on community fridges in Jamaica, Queens, and designing the garage front for Pear Tree Explorers, a Black, woman-owned, daycare in Cambria Heights, Queens.
Although Jones works full-time — as a front desk receptionist and dance instructor — she still manages to stay focused on her entrepreneurial objectives.
She works with a small team, her friend Dana Barnes acting as her creative director while also adding Black NYC-based artists to her collective to hire for different projects.
“Creativity has been one of the only ways people have listened to us and heard our stories. There’s something about the arts and creativity that makes messages resonate more with others.”Brandi Jones
Building an accessible space
One of the main goals for Black Village Arts is to have an official community space in Queens. Jones describes her borough as being “the hub for NYC,” and diverse in its population.
Although she takes pride in her community’s diverse background, she notices a disconnect. Some racial and ethnic groups are separated. You might find a certain type of food in one area, while another section only encompasses another set of ethnic cuisine.
Jones wants to change that perspective. She wants BVA to be an accessible space for everyone in the borough to connect and learn.
While the Black-owned art store will focus on kids 13 and up, some projects will involve adults. Although the pandemic left many ideas at a standstill, Jones plans to continue adding community outreach and projects to her roster — all while inspiring creatives of color to chase their dreams.
“You can be anything you want to be and create what you want to create. Even if it’s something no one has ever seen before, or how untraditional it is, there is a way to make that thing physical and real.”Brandi Jones