An Aurora nonprofit had to leave its space a few years ago. It housed a bookstore and served the community. Despite not having a home, the group continues to fulfill its vision with the help of others.
L.I.F.T. (Live. Improve. Flourish. Thrive.) Aurora -- better known locally as Culture Stock -- has a goal to enrich the community through arts.
Nicole Mullins is the founder and board president of the nonprofit. She said the building they were hoping to secure last year was acquired by another buyer.
“It was a church building on Fifth Street on the east side of Aurora, they ended up getting a cash buyer, unfortunately, that was willing to pay their asking price,” Mullins explained. “So obviously, that made sense for them to jump on that opportunity.”
She advised that the group is back at square one. But, with COVID-19 restrictions lifting, and support from other Aurora vendors, they plan to host events and other programming.
Some of the programs they are looking to bring back are Music Mondays, the Social Justice Book Club and Story Time for children.
Culture Stock has already started their “Respect The Mic – Spoken Word Poetry Open Mic" via Zoom and Facebook Live.
Brandy Gilliam is a member of the P.O.B.U.M.S. Society Aurora hip-hop group. He partners with Mullins for this experience, which began a few years ago as an in-person event. He said he was reluctant to resume it online.
“Like a lot of people are doing whatever they're doing up in their daily lives,” he said. “So, I don't know how many people would actually take the time to dedicate and focus on this.”
These open mics have taken place every other week since the beginning of February.
Mullins wants to take these performances outside as the weather gets better.
“There are some public outdoor spaces that we will look to utilize like Water Street Mall that we've done in the past, the Millennium Plaza on Stolp Avenue,” she said.
Culture Stock is also taking part in Art and Market Aurora at Society 57. This happens every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month through May 22nd.
“So, we have a booth. We're selling books that have been donated, and also some different materials that we bought, or had artists make in addition to the books,” Mullins added. “And this is a way for us to engage the community. You know, let people know, ‘We're still here. This is what we're working on.’”
They also have a booth at the Painted Tree in Naperville. They sell books there, and Mullins said they use that booth as a source of fundraising.
Mullins stated that some of the inside vendors allow them to use their spaces for free while others charge a reasonable fee. She shared that the organizations support each other and are aligned with the mission of enhancing the community.
Although Culture Stock can fulfill their goal without a building, they haven’t given up on finding a new home. Mullins said they are accepting donations to help fund the mortgage whenever they find a place in the city.
- Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.