More than a year ago, Cal Cullen — director of Camp Washington's Wave Pool gallery — partnered with Sheryl Rajbhandari of Heartfelt Tidbits to offer art classes to refugees. From there, The Welcome Project was born.
And now, the initiative looks toward a new chapter. On Thursday, it officially received an Impact 100 Grant worth $104,000 to expand the concept, which seeks to build a support system for refugee and immigrant women.
Last year, CityBeat’s Nick Swartsell covered its origins. “It won’t really be a Heartfelt Tidbits thing or a Wave Pool thing,” Rajbhandari told Swartsell at the time. “It will be its own business, and we’ll just be heavily engaged.”
The storefront, just a building across from Wave Pool gallery, is now managed by one of the refugee women who started the project, Lourdes Martinez. Everything in the space — even the colorful logo — stemmed from the directives of the women who work there. And, not only do they sell goods and their art, they also teach public classes in the space.
“This grant will allow us to renovate a Camp Washington storefront into a teaching kitchen for cooking instruction and a fresh produce market in order to empower marginalized, at-risk refugee and immigrant women in Cincinnati,” the gallery notes in a press release. “These funds will also allow us to offer better training options for women of The Welcome Project, leading to employment opportunities, hire a full-time manager for The Welcome Project, as well as impact broader community revitalization in Camp Washington.”
The grant awards regional nonprofits each year in Northern Kentucky, Southeastern Indiana and Greater Cincinnati. Of the applicants, other finalists included Outdoor Adventure Clubs of Greater Cincinnati, La Soupe, Venice on Vine and City Gospel Mission.
The announcement comes at a big month for The Welcome Project: One of their partners has set up shop in the Contemporary Arts Center this month (read our story here). All September, a street food cart has acted as an extension of Welcome’s mission; War Gastronomy — the brainchild of San Francisco’s Collective Action Studio — is just another way create a broader sense of community through shared stories.
Though the cart is the focal point, large paintings of doors are mounted adjacent to the table. They depict the stories of immigrant women from Welcome, hazy with childhood memories. The food served up is also made with their own recipes.
“Wave Pool’s mission is to really blur the boundaries between contemporary art and social justice,” Cullen told CityBeat’s Erin Couch. “And I think that War Gastronomy is the perfect fit as a way to activate the recipes that are coming out of The Welcome Project and give them a bigger platform.
“It basically acts as a microphone for these women to be able to share their stories with Greater Cincinnati.”
For more information on The Welcome Project, visit welcomecincinnati.org.