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Student entrepreneurs showcase their artistic skills during recent pop-up shop

Auburn high school senior Keon Leach holding his 'Jesus Piece' shirt.
Yvonne Boose
Auburn high school senior Keon Leach holding his 'Jesus Piece' shirt.

A group of high school students got the opportunity to showcase their entrepreneurial skills by selling their art to the public.

Keon Leach welcomed customers as they walked into the Rockford Art Deli.

“Have a wonderful day guys,” he greeted.

Leach, a senior at Auburn high school, just started working at the store. He takes part in the school’s Business Academy Studio Art class. This project helps teach young artists how to become entrepreneurs. He said the leaders of the project helped get him a job at RAD but on that day, Leach brought a few things to sell.

“I've made a beige hoodie with a camo print on the back with my logo on it. It's ‘ARC’ It means to be understood by few arcane,” he explained. “I've also made a shirt and it's supposed to be a Black Jesus piece.”

Leach is one of many students who sold some of their art at last Friday’s pop-up shop at RAD.

Jarrod Hennis is the owner of RAD. He said the store has always wanted to invest in youth.

“I think it was a good platform to be able to launch in here," he said, "where they can have a real, you know, boutique environment and kind of see, can see how it works."

Iga Puchalksa is a teacher at the school. She leads the BASA group with her husband Jason Judd. She said the opportunity for the students to sell their work is instrumental.

“I feel like, sometimes we get jaded by this idea that art doesn't have any money in it,” she said. “We're just showing them, those real-world opportunities that they can create themselves.”

Autumn Burks is a junior. She excitedly explained the sweatshirts she had on display.

“So, I made like a really intricate one with like a big spider web design out of like embroidery and beads,” she said. “I really wanted to mess with like charms and stuff during this year. So, I put a bunch of like hanging bug charms in there.”

Sweatshirt designed by high school student Autumn Burks.
Yvonne Boose
Sweatshirt designed by high school student Autumn Burks.

Burks said she never thought she would design clothes. Her art was confined to paper. She said she never thought to use technology to take her concepts to the next level.

Kamila Fernandez is also a junior. She stood close to her merchandise eager to describe her designs. She brought three pieces of clothing, a tote bag, and some boots that she drew on. She said one of her t-shirts didn’t come out as planned.

“It was kind of a mess, kind of a mistake,” she explained. “The printing kind of went wrong and it went over it. And Mr. Judd was like, ‘just do something with it. Just be creative.’ So, I kind of bleached the shirt drew over it. And I made it whatever it was.”

Fernandez said before BASA her goal was to study animation in college.

“But since starting this class and starting this, like, kind of project," she said, "it's kind of opened my eyes to helping out the community and like being more involved and then making merchandise for the community.”

Yvonne Boose
Kamila Fernandez showing off her t-shirt designs.

Fernandez said BASA helps her realize her creative potential.

Leach credited the academy for taking his sights off pursuing college basketball.

“I'm going to a fashion school in Detroit called Pensole Lewis College," he added, "and the director of it is an ex-designer for Nike and Jordan."

Puchalksa said BASA will continue to grow focusing on advanced level students.

“We can give the glimpse of BASA to our freshmen students coming in," she said, "to have it dangling as a carrot for them to know what is at the end of the tunnel."

Hennis said this pop-up shop will not be the only partnership between his store and the school. Next year RAD will offer something else to the students.

“I'm going to go in and help with, not really curriculum, but meet with the students give feedback, have them come here, get to see the shop tour,” he explained, “and then someone will get to work towards an internship at RAD.”

According to the BASA Facebook page, the group made over $800 in sales, with some students selling out of their products.

This is the second pop-up shop for the students. The first one took place in February at the school.


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.