Aaron, Kristen, Camden & Ellis Collier
The Collier’s moved to New Orleans in 2003 upon Aaron’s acceptance to Tulane University in the Master of Fine Arts program and Kristen began an internship with Desire Street Ministries in the Lower 9th Ward.
They purchased their first home in 2005, just eleven days before Hurricane Katrina in the St. Claude neighborhood on Lesseps Street since their friends were living nearby in St. Roch. This new home was completely renovated when they purchased it, however after Hurricane Katrina it underwent another renovation.
In 2007, after attending church Uptown, Aaron and Kristen realized there was a need to have a church in their neighborhood so a group of St. Roch residents started meeting at the Collier’s house and at other residents’ homes in St. Roch. Once they had regular attendance they invited another now resident of St. Roch, J.B. Watkins to join them as their pastor and brought him on board to the newly formed St. Roch Community Church.
In the summer of 2010, Aaron, another artist and St. Roch resident began looking for artist space between Poland Avenue and Elysian Fields and discovered the space at 1340 St. Roch Avenue. The for sale sign had been taken down even though the property was for sale and had been on the market for quite some time. Quickly Aaron and the other artist realized that this space could offer shared studio space, exhibition space, as well as a residence that could take the pressure off of the artists to be major financial contributors.
One of the major attractions of the space is that it could serve as a bridge between area residents and the St. Claude art community, Aaron and the collective looked at other spaces on St. Claude but they weren’t conducive to creating the community atmosphere that they desired. With Aaron’s ties to the church, having a collective of artists committed to this project and one artist in particular already living in St. Roch it was easy to see this was the neighborhood and area that they wanted to bring Staple Goods to life in. The Artist’s Collective Staple Goods opened in May 2011 and houses four studios upstairs, two studios downstairs, the exhibition space and a two-bedroom residence all located inside the former corner grocery.
Since the space is nestled into the neighborhood, Aaron and Kristen are excited about neighborhood residents attending gallery openings, stopping in to visit and reaching neighbors in ways that they know wouldn’t have been able to attract them on St. Claude Avenue. This space is conducive to resident interaction and gives the artists the ability to create more of an awareness of art.
One of the goals of Staple Goods is to provide a place for kids to visit and folks that wouldn’t normally interact with the arts to see artists at work and the art they make as well as opening up life as an artist as a possibility. Aaron tells kids at church and in the community that he is a painter and they say, “houses?” and he says “no, pictures “ and they say “whoa.”
From September 10-October 9, Local Threads is being presented by Member and St. Roch resident, Thomasine Barlett. Thomasine has chosen to curate a community arts festival at Staple Goods as her contribution. FSRP saw the soon-to-be Artwalk transformed into a catwalk and many residents of St. Roch participated as models and designers in the shows and workshops.
*Courtesy of Faubourg St. Roch Project