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A place to stay - Aurora nonprofit finds a home

Community members celebrating the grand re-opening of Culture Stock.
Yvonne Boose
Community members celebrating the grand re-opening of Culture Stock.

An Aurora nonprofit is now operating out of a brick-and-mortar facility after four years of supporting the community without a physical space. Saturday was the grand re-opening.

Music and murals served as a backdrop for the Culture Stock celebration.

This nonprofit supports the community by offering mostly free art programs and activities to the public. It’s also a used bookstore. In 2018, its physical location on Galena Boulevard in downtown Aurora was closed due to issues with the building.

Nicole Mullins is the board president. She said Facebook coincidently showed a significant memory on her timeline the day before the planned celebration of their new home. It was the anniversary for the close date of the last one.

“And so, to have that be our closing and then for the next day to be our reopening, it was kind of weird,” she said. “But I love the space that we're in. I love that we have the ability to hang all of our murals from our past hip-hop festivals that we've done.”

Books shelves with a mural in the background.
Yvonne Boose
Books shelves with a mural in the background.

Sofia Lazcano, a board member for the organization, started volunteering for the nonprofit in 2017. She said Culture Stock is unique.

“Other nonprofits will do paid for programming,” she said, “whereas her focus is, we do not want them to pay [for] everything."

Lazcano said trying to operate without a space has been challenging because they had nothing to tell the community when asked about a location. She noted that other community businesses have pitched in over the years.

Places like the Peace House, Simply Destinee and the Talented Tenth Social Services, Inc. allowed Culture Stock to use their spaces.

The new location sits right next to Simply Destinee.

Araceli Ascencio is the former vice president of Culture Stock’s board. She now volunteers for the organization. She said it’s great to see Culture Stock re-open because it gives the community a creative space.

“If people need a space just for a meeting, you can use it for a meeting. If you want to give back to the community and do like a workshop or something that you can do that,” she explained. “Like I've been doing vision board workshops for a few years now.”

Erika Garcia, a community member, learned about Culture Stock through Facebook in 2019. She said Culture Stock is a great way to bring the community together, she mentioned something that Mullins said.

“But I know that like the poetry side of it too. I know her quote is ‘it's more than just a bookstore’ because it really is. It's you know, the crafts, it’s people coming in meeting each other,” she said. “I know my partner met a lot of his friends [here] and he's a poet.”

The poetry reference is from the “Respect the Mic – Spoken Word Open Mic” event that takes place on the first Friday of each month.

Mullins said in addition to the poetry event, the nonprofit will offer things like belly dance classes, story time and crafts. Starting in October the organization is bringing back Music Monday. Mullins said most of the programs are free and if they ever had to charge for something, it was because there’s a supply that they don’t have in stock. She explains why she feels it is important to offer a free space to the community.

“I grew up on the east side of Aurora. Several of our board members grew up on the east side of Aurora. So, we're very familiar with how under resourced that community is just because that's where we came from.”

The new location is not on the east side of the city. Mullins said that is the long-term goal. But no matter the location, everyone in the community is welcomed. The board president is also looking for volunteers.

  • 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.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.
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