The Idea: It's a cozy little space, but the Upcycle Parts Shop has a big mission. A crowd stood outside the St. Clair Avenue storefront on Friday evening to celebrate the grand opening of the creative reuse center that's a part of the Upcycle St. Clair initiative, which aims to bring economic impact to the St. Clair Superior neighborhood through existing resources and manpower. Artistic director Nicole McGee finds all of the store's who's-it's and what's-it's galore through donations of bits and pieces that local businesses don't need anymore: plastic cookie cutters, swatches of wallpaper, bathroom tiles, old neckties, laminate sample tags, tiny glass bottles. The shop prods local artists to consider using leftover supplies instead of buying new ones and it's numerous neighborhood partnerships including student internships create fresh opportunities for the community.
The Experience: Friday's event kicked off with a community open studio, a freestyle reuse crafting session which will be held at the store once a month. As two musicians played guitars out front, I held a colored marker to a paper plate as it spun on an old record player, making a pattern of concentric circles. A woman cut some of the colored plates into spirals and hung them like silent wind chimes outside the shop window. At a table nearby, people tied strings together to play cat's cradle.
Our Take: As I ran my fingers through bins of wooden beads and played with a quiver of arrows, I realized I'm nearly as excited as McGee about the bimonthly themed artist workshops (the first one on July 24 is on paper bag art). Attendees pay $20 for instruction and materials, and bring their own booze — they take place at the reclaimed in-store Art Bar, after all. I look forward to watching the parts shop help the Upcycle St. Clair movement — as McGee's storefront sign says— thrive.