From the start, Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse in Philadelphia has been a feel good story. As the first East Coast comics shop to be owned by an African-American woman, it’s also become a neighborhood fixture, while offering coffee and baked good along with wide ranging comics stock. The store and owner Ariell R. Johnson have been getting attention since it opened early last year.
And Johnson just got more attention, with a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, a charitable organization that gives out grants in journalism, the arts, and in local development projects. Johnson applied at the suggestion of a friend and won out over 4,500 other applications with a proposal called “Up, Up and Away: Building a Programming Space at Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse” that aims to create a place for programming and learning in the shop.
Johnson wanted to find a way to equip aspiring comic creators, particularly those from disenfranchised communities without the means to go to art school, with the tools to compete with mainstream comic books.
Amalgam has already started on this mission –– they run children’s workshops, and partnered with RUSH, Danny Simmons’ arts philanthropy foundation –– an effort which Johnson said is made possible by their spacious venue.
“We do a lot of these programs in our space,” Johnson said. “But the building is actually much bigger. There are rooms behind the bathroom, which we haven’t renovated. This grant will allow us to open up those rooms to the public and create a permanent programming space. We’ll use it to its full potential.”
Johnson has shown herself to be quite an entrepreneur, and the plan to make the shop even more of a hub for local comics activities – as well as a neighborhood anchor – is another innovative move on her part – as if getting a $50,000 grant to do so.
[Photo via the Amalgam Facebook page.]