Sat 9/19 @ 7PM
Upcycle Parts Shop is a creative reuse center celebrating its one year anniversary. This special event, Dance Your Parts Off, will be held on Sat 9/19 @ 7PM. It is a celebration of what the organization has built in the first year of being in Cleveland’s St. Clair neighborhood. It’s a party showcase with music, food, art and drinks held at one of Cleveland’s many treasures, the Slovenian National Home (6409 St. Clair Ave.). The group is excited to dance their parts off and showcase what they do and how they do it.
We sat down with Nicole McGee, founder and artistic director of Upcycle Parts Shop, to chat about the work they’ve accomplished this past year, learn more about the organization and hear
CC: Tell us about Upcycle Parts Shop.
Nicole: Upcycle Parts Shop is a project of St. Clair Superior Community Development Corporation and is operated as a stand-alone community storefront. The mission, as a nonprofit social enterprise, is to provoke creativity and promote community through reuse. Think of it as a cross between a thrift store and art supply shop that offers plenty of creative programming, workshops, parties and custom orders, created all out of upcycling materials donated by companies and individuals.
CC: What’s your story with Plenty Underfoot?
Nicole: I run my own art business, Plenty Underfoot. I’ve been a reuse artist for about 8 years. The centerpieces at Aladdin’s restaurants are what many people recognize when I talk about my work! There is so much value in the waste stream and the more creative I got with the leftovers, surplus and extras all around us, the more support I feel I received. Cleveland is a generous city and it became clear to me that more people want to support this work by sharing and donating things that “could be useful to someone.” I learned about the creative reuse center model online and connected with a national association of people doing all kinds of work like this in 2010 at ReUseConex in Durham, NC. Since then, the Scrap Exchange in Durham and their director Ann Woodward have served as mentors for building our own model here in Cleveland.
CC: What’s the story behind Upcycle Parts Shop?
Nicole: The leap from Plenty Underfoot to Upcycle Parts Shop began in earnest in 2012 when Michael Fleming, executive director of St. Clair Superior CDC, approached me about utilizing upcycling as a revitalization strategy. I knew this broader community-based approach was where I was headed, and had been activating vacant storefronts with other artists through our Collective Upcycle pop-up model since 2010. This was the chance to pull that all together and share the creative, economic and sustainability-minded opportunities of creative reuse and upcycling to others.
Our start-up funder, ArtPlace America, funds creative placemaking work around the country. Creative placemaking connects people who live and work in a place to revitalization of that place using artistic interventions. Simply put, it’s not working if the community that has been here long before us isn’t involved and at our side and sharing what they want for their community. This message resonates with me deeply, and it resonates with everyone who works here. We are now a team of 6 part-time, passionate, creative people.
We’ve now been open over a year, we’ve diverted over 6 tons of trash from 156 donors. We’ve upcycled with more than 2,500 participants in open studios, community crafting, workshops and parties, and welcomed 956 customers into our shop. Our team of 28 volunteers (and counting) logged 615 hours of volunteer labor! Our shop in St. Clair is a “third space” apart from home and work, a safe and inclusive place for neighbors and volunteers to meet, congregate, make connections and find new friends.
CC: What are you most proud of accomplishing in the first year? What does this celebration mean to you?
Nicole: This work is a dreamwork for me. I learned early on that dreamwork is indeed work. Our regular customers and neighbors make us feel like we belong here when they come visit us, bring goods from their gardens, share photos of their creations from what they got at the shop and hold community meetings here. Sometimes when the shop is full and I’m running around like a crazy person, I have to stop to smile. This all exists and it’s bigger than I could have imagined. The richness of our neighbors, customers, supporters and friends is beautiful. Dance Your Parts Off is a party to celebrate all of that.
CC: Who should come out to the party?
Nicole: This is not your normal fundraiser. Anyone who is interested in arts, community, Cleveland, neighborhoods, St. Clair, sustainability, dancing or upcycling totally wants to be here with us. It’s a birthday party and a celebration high on gratitude, crafting and music. You should probably not come if you don’t like those things.
Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. If you can’t go to the soiree but would like to make a donation, click here. Secure parking is availalbe behind the Slovenian National Home (6409 St Clair Ave, Cleveland, OH 44103), which can be accessed by turning north onto East 64th Street off of St. Clair Ave, or North onto Addison off St. Clair.[Photo by Breanna Kulkin]