Birmingham’s Woodlawn neighborhood is growing rapidly, with many new businesses opening up post-COVID. One of the most noticeable areas of growth is amongst Woodlawn creatives. New business owners and residents are citing the area as a growing art district, bolstered by the support of the community and the Woodlawn Foundation.
Angela, the owner of Marsuko, lives in Woodlawn and sells handmade clay jewelry. As a resident of four years and a business owner of two, she has seen the development first hand.
With no storefront, most of her sales are done online or at markets. She credits the Woodlawn market as her first pop-up,
She was especially impressed with how easy it was to get involved with selling at the market, and how supportive they were of new businesses just getting started.
“I was like, ‘you know let me try one market, see how it goes’ and it was just so awesome. It was an amazing experience, they make it very easy for people to get into.”
A common thread through my conversations with artists and business owners was the desire to create shared spaces for the community to come together. Leslie and Jared, the owners of Trynabe Studios and Commonplace, respectively, both use their spaces for pop-up shops, open houses, and community workshops.
Trynabe Studios focuses on selling upcycled vintage clothing as well as offering studio bookings for photographers.
“My goal is to have certain days where my studio is just open for people to come in and shop. We also plan on doing events also. That’s really my main thing, when we aren’t hosting the photography bookings, I will actually be doing events.”
Leslie, owner of Trynabe Studios
In addition to hosting events, she hopes to use friends and connections in order to offer workshops for things like candle making and photography.
“Hopefully I can get to the point where I’m having a workshop every other week there, and it’s someone from the community that has something to offer.”
People’s generosity and willingness to come together are a few of the things that brought her back to the neighborhood she grew up in, and one of the reasons she feels so encouraged in starting her business.
“I love that about Woodlawn. I think they’re one of the few places I’ve gotten that vibe from. It’s really hard to find a place where people actually want to connect.”
Jared, the owner of Commonplace, has similar community-focused goals for his space.
“I actually am an architect – and I’ve always been about furniture, so a lot of this stuff is furniture we’ve built. The chair you’re sitting on, tables, lamps. – But then, I was floating around from woodshop to woodshop and always like ‘oh it would be great to have our own home’ so bought this building two years ago for that. The woodshop is in the back, we kinda build furniture about every Wednesday and just come and play. And we felt like the front of the house could easily be leased out to artists. So this is just open communal space. We have open houses, they can have shows in the space”
Jared, owner of Commonplace
The space is rented out for local artists to have their own booth to work out of, as well as to display their art. As of now the artists are the primary focus, but he hopes to be able to expand Commonplace’s impact.
“I’m interested in Woodlawn as a whole. I’ve always kinda been interested in Woodlawn, so we were even thinking about some housing in the back, and we could kinda display some of the housing stuff here for the community to come in and talk about.”
Jared is hoping to increase engagement with their neighbors by making Commonplace an open area of art and learning for all ages.
“We’ve been trying to reach out to some of the local art schools and have kids come in and actually talk to the artists about what they do and it as a profession.”
While he knows they still have a ways to go, he sees potential in the neighborhood.
“I can see where this is kind of a barrier there. But I think the most successful places in Birmingham are those kinda blurred line areas, and I think it happens in Woodlawn pretty decently.”
Similarly, Leslie is confident that Woodlawn, both residents and officials, is excited about the new artistic growth.
“I definitely think so, especially these last few months really what stood out to me the most was the murals they did outside our building. So I think that alone is already showing how much interest Woodlawn is really trying to put into artists. They really went all out with that one.”
“It’s a no brainer, they definitely are for the community.”