Local Spotlight: Indigo Hippo

This summer in the midst of a global pandemic, protestors came out en masse calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality. Cincinnati has been actively involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, with many local businesses stepping up to help the cause.

Indigo Hippo, a nonprofit art supplies store located on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine (OTR) created a “Make-a-Sign” station, offering free poster boards, markers and other sign-making supplies. Cincinnati Parent chatted with Indigo Hippo’s interim executive director and co-founder Emily Farison about how this nonprofit came to be, Cincinnati’s creative community, and how art can unify and affect positive change.

Tell us how Indigo Hippo started.

Indigo Hippo opened in 2016 after our founders, a small group of DAAP (University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning) graduates, connected to the model of “Creative Reuse” and realized Cincinnati didn’t have any similar resources. The idea of offering creative materials to our community as accessibly as possible while keeping amazing materials from being added to the waste stream became our mission, coupled with the belief that creativity is a powerful way to navigate everything life throws our way.

You describe yourselves as a “creative reuse center” in OTR. What does this mean, and how does this work? 

“Creative Reuse” is basically the idea of creatively giving pre-existing materials a second life. Of course, people have been reusing materials for centuries in one way or another, but for us, this looks like our art supply thrift store, which operates with a pay-what-you-can model. People who maybe have a few half-full bottles of paint, some leftover fabric or extra wood from artwork or projects can bring us these materials that still have “life” left in them, and trust that someone else will find them and put them to good use in a new way.

What kinds of programs are available to community members, families and kids? 

Over the last four years, our programming has changed quite a bit as our capacity has fluctuated. In the past year, we’ve had steady programming at the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) for families that focused on personal growth in relation to creativity, which unfortunately got derailed due to COVID-19. However, we have plans in the works with CAM for the fall to offer programming for families and kids centered around Creative Reuse and environmental themes.

This summer, in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, you set up a free poster making station for protestors. Tell us about that. 

We have always done our best to make our storefront a space where everybody feels welcome, no matter who they are, what they look like or whatever circumstances they might be experiencing. As our community raised their voices, we felt the most helpful thing we could do was offer what tangible support we have: art materials. Not only does creativity spread empathy, but if sharing some paper and markers freely with our community could help give voice to those who need to be heard right now, it was the least we could do. 

How can the community support you? 

There are many ways to support us! We are still operating with limited hours due to the pandemic, but our website has info about signing up for shopping appointments, material donation appointments and volunteer appointments. Monetary donations also go a long way toward keeping us afloat during these uncertain times, and support our ability to continue offering creative materials as accessibly as possible. Sharing our social media with friends and family is also a great way to help us spread the word.

For more information, visit indigohippo.org.

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