May 29, 2003
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Photo by Lauren Heaton

Anna Lemons, a member of the Village Artisans Cooperative, in the store’s new space in Kings Yard. The co-op moved earlier this month.



Village Artisans relocates shop
Door to door, the move that the Village Artisans Cooperative made in early May wasn't more than 50 feet. But when the cooperative’s 19 artists emptied their cramped space on Xenia Avenue and reorganized it in the building behind Sam & Eddie’s Open Books, they found they had three to four times the space to display their wares, plus some room to grow.
Downtown storefronts don’t idle on empty for long, and as soon as the artisans’ space was empty Springfield residents Keith and Kecia Tolliver snapped it up to establish a retail store for West and Central African folk art and world clothing. The couple is planning to open Kecia’s Treasures this Saturday, May 31, after they finish most of the repainting and remodeling inside, Keith Tolliver said.
The Tolliver family began selling international art and jewelry in Kings Yard 11 years ago when their sons Jimi and Keith Jr. first displayed art from Belize on the yard’s brick patio. For the past two summers the Tollivers’ two younger boys, Akil and Red, have followed their brothers’ example, selling African art similar to what the store will offer, Tolliver said.
The size of the store is just what the business needs to serve as home base for the vending the family does at outdoor shows and festivals.
But for the Village Artisans’ needs, the larger space that opened up when Back Chat moved out of Kings Yard last summer was more suitable.
The artists in the cooperative had been talking about relocating for over a year, stained-glass artist Holly Jordan said.
’It’s an opportunity to expand our display and make it more gallery like, and also to have more artists,’ Jordan said.
According to Anna Arbor, one of the co-op’s original members, Village Artisans was started in 1983 at its former shop on Xenia Avenue by 26 local artists. Though the business has fewer members today, Arbor said that the group stayed put because the store offered good visibility and because of the lack of other appropriate space.
Now the group includes mostly artists from out of town creating everything from watercolor painting to stained glass to astrophotos, or photos of objects in deep space. None of the members has been with the co-op for more than four years, and, Jordan said, they are coming up with new ideas all the time.
After Village Artisans celebrates its official opening the weekend of the Street Fair on June 14, the group may set up outside demonstrations to show customers how the artists create their works, Jordan said. And they’ve also discussed the possibility of starting art classes in their expanded space, and perhaps opening a coffee bar.
The artists say they are excited about their move.
’The downside is it’s off the street, so you gotta get here,’ Jordan said. ’But it’s so much better once you do; it’s worth that extra 50 feet.’

—Lauren Heaton