Since June, the impact investing firm Hyper Local Impact and the nonprofit Human Agriculture Co-Operative have been running the Family & Friends Fund for Southeast Fort Wayne, using grassroots, community-led fundraising methods to raise $1 million for a once-redlined district.
These funds will be turned over to neighborhood leaders in Southeast to use at their discretion and infuse a predominantly Black, Hispanic, and multicultural community with economic opportunity.
Throughout the summer, many people and organizations across Fort Wayne have gotten involved with the cause, from kids hosting bake sales in their neighborhoods to businesses like Junk Ditch Brewing Company hiring Black artists for the special release of their Hyper Local Pale Ale.
When Dan Swartz of Wunderkammer Company contemporary art center on the South side started thinking about ways his organization could get involved, he wanted to find a way to support the cause that would also benefit existing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) business owners in Fort Wayne.
As an outgrowth of this desire, the first Mosaic Market was born.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, from 4-7 p.m., Wunderkammer is partnering with a series of organizations to host an outdoor, socially distant pop-up market for BIPOC creatives and business owners to sell and share their products.
“The event is going to be held at no cost event to the businesses,” Swartz says. “We are just asking interested business owners and artists to sign up so we can organize it. Then, we’re making it a festival.”
Swartz hopes the event creates a culture of shopping BIPOC businesses and services in Fort Wayne and sets the stage for future BIPOC markets at Wunderkammer on a regular basis.
One artist who will be featured at Mosaic Market is Debbi Kuntz, who is half-Korean. Debbi Kuntz
Kuntz says her skin is lighter than her two brothers so many people don’t know she’s a Person of Color, but she feels strongly about the need to support BIPOC residents and businesses in Fort Wayne.
“I was always the big sister protecting my brothers because they would get called names in school,” Kuntz says. “I didn’t have to deal with anywhere near as much racism back then as there is today, but I’ve definitely had to deal with people looking at me differently and judging me.”
After growing up in Hammond, Ind., near Gary, Kuntz moved to Fort Wayne in 2004 to attend the University of St. Francis. Since then, she’s chosen to make the city her home and has enjoyed seeing the city evolve and develop downtown over the past 16 years.
Even so, she still feels strongly about the need for more funding, advocacy, and development to support communities of color in Fort Wayne. As such, she attended many of the local protests in late May and early June, as well as the national March on Washington on Aug. 28. She says she was present at both Fort Wayne protests where protesters were sprayed with teargas by police.
“I didn’t know that the Fort Wayne Police Department had tear gas, did you?” Kuntz says. “I love Fort Wayne, and that’s why I’m still here, but it’s things like this that make me want to move.”
Debbi Kuntz is creating Kawaii style art with a Black Lives Matter theme for Mosaic Market.
Instead of moving, she has resolved to keep advocating for change through her art and involvement in the city. Earlier this summer, she participated in a different art market to raise money for the Family & Friends Fund for Southeast. Now, she’s excited to be part of Mosaic Market, too.
While Kuntz is a graphic designer by trade, she’s exploring other crafts and potential art businesses on her Instagram, @debbitronn.
“I do a lot of anime, Kawaii style artwork,” she says.
Debbi Kuntz displays painted jeans she created.
At Mosaic Market, she’ll be selling hand-painted denim jackets and shorts, as well as buttons that customers can add to them.
“It will be a mixture of Kawaii art and activism art, focusing on Black Lives Matter and voting,” she says. “The time is nigh.”
Along with drawing attention to up-and-coming BIPOC creators like Kuntz, Swartz hopes Mosaic Market also draws attention to the many people and organizations working to make a difference on the South side of town.
Just north of Wunderkammer Company in the South Wayne Neighborhood is an organization called Growing Minds Educational Services that is partnering with Wunderkammer on Sept. 12 to do an interactive art demonstration on its building.
Growing Minds works with youth to provide academic services, as well as life skills, mentoring, and coaching.
“We believe that if we change the mindset of our students and teach the value of education, then they will grow as learners and continue to learn beyond the classroom,” its website says.
Another nonprofit getting involved with Mosaic Market is Upgrade the World Inc. Formerly known as Dare to Live Different, Upgrade the World is co-founded by two longtime friends in Fort Wayne, Trell Jones, 22, and Donovan McLeister, 21.
Trell Jones, left, and Donovan McLeister, right, Co-Founded Upgrade the World.
From delivering Thanksgiving meals to those in need to hosting events like backpack giveaways, Upgrade the World started as a way to provide individuals and families with basic necessities. Jones says that a few months ago they updated their name and added mentorship and skill learning sessions to their work, in addition to service projects. They also added a third leader to their group, Zach Cain, who is the Financial Officer.
“We want to give people guidance, mentoring at-risk children in single-parent homes,” Jones says. “We also want to teach people real-world skills you don’t learn in school, like how to do your taxes or how to run a business.”
Jones, who runs his own clothing brand AOB Sportswear on the side, says Upgrade the World will have a booth at Mosaic Market where they will be selling t-shirts and sharing their mission with the community. They’ve also helped recruit about 15 other BIPOC business owners to attend the event from their recent Bring Your Own Brand annual networking party.
Overall, Jones says he has been impressed by the variety of BIPOC business owners he's met in Fort Wayne, from graphic designers to cologne makers, to bakers making homemade treats.
“We want people to know they have a lot of different, local options when they go to buy something,” Jones says.
He hopes Mosaic Market will help circulate money within Fort Wayne’s community—and particularly within communities of color.
“It’s really going to help entrepreneurs get a leg up,” he says.
Along with meeting artists and organizations, attendees at Mosaic Market will have an opportunity to contribute to the Family & Friends Fund for Southeast, Swartz says.
So far the fund has raised more than $400,000 toward its goal.
“We’re just asking people to come out, support local businesses, meet new people, and give a donation to the Family & Friends Fund if they can,” Swartz says.
Attend Mosaic Market
Saturday, 4-7 p.m.
Outside and socially distant at Wunderkammer Company, 3402 Fairfield Ave.
Business Sign Up Link: https://bit.ly/mosaicbussignup
Volunteer Sign Up Link: https://bit.ly/mosaicvolsignup
More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/956389761500684/