💌 Love Philly? Sign up for the free Billy Penn newsletter to get everything you need to know about Philadelphia, every day.
When Tahron Bryant started his luxury streetwear line Nouvelle Richesse in 2019, he had to stay on the move. Bryant was studying at Lincoln University at the time, and driving back and forth from the school to the city to deliver products to customers.
The next year, he dropped out of school, set on making the fashion line a full-time business. Through 2020, he designed hoodies, tees, and other apparel out of his mother’s basement and backyard. Then he found Kreate Hub, a coworking space for creatives located in Kensington.
Kreate, which opened its Philly site in 2020 after success with a similar venture in NYC’s South Bronx, is an incubator for creatives. The Philadelphia location operates out of what used to be the Thomas Powers School, built in 1899.
“[It’s] a great place, especially for beginners to get that foundation, being around other people, just building your network, which is important for any entrepreneur,” Bryant told Billy Penn. “I could really get a business school type of vibe, when everyone’s dealing with the same type of mission.”
The facility is featured in this week’s episode of WHYY-TV’s Movers & Makers, which highlights art, innovation, and community in Kensington.
For Iva Kelman, Kreate’s Philly manager and a painter herself, the establishment filled a crucial niche, opening as the pandemic first landed in Philadelphia.
“Many businesses, many creatives who joined us at the time of the pandemic joined us because they were displaced. Either because their work had closed or they didn’t want to operate out of their homes any longer,” Kelman said.
In turn, Kreate has been a boon to artists looking to take their craft into a space where it can fully develop into a business.
“I felt like I was back in a dorm when I went to Kreate. Everybody was welcome, everybody was nice. It was a supportive space where everybody’s an entrepreneur,” said Bryant. After a nine-month stint at Kreate, Bryant and Nouvelle Richesse expanded to its own storefront in Northern Liberties.
Manager Kelman views Bryant as one of Kreate’s clearest success stories, but said the impact the hub has had goes beyond any one entrepreneur.
“Just by our sheer being there, in a building that used to be empty that is now thriving, we’ve certainly cleared out a lot of the drug activity in the area,” she said.
Kensington is heavily affected by the related crises of homelessness and addiction, but it’s also a place where residents are constantly working to beautify the neighborhood through art.
Cass Green, an artist and community engagement project manager at the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, works with schools, churches, and community organizations to provide creative avenues for people to express themselves.
Green, who also founded the Mill Creek Community Partnership, holds art workshops and exhibitions around Kensington, often traveling to events in a mobile art station called the FATOE (Fine Art Through Our Eyes) artbus, which was converted from an airport shuttle.
Jerry Puryear, FATOE’s Resident Artist, helps operate the bus and facilitate community programming. “We hold art workshops designed to inspire and give a platform for the individual to have their own voice,” he told Movers & Makers.
In conversation with Movers & Makers, Green shared that she “noticed that people can get discouraged, and seeing beauty even in broken places gives people a sense of hope, a want to continue to move forward.”
Kreate also does what it can to foster hope, both by making space for creatives to perfect their craft and through making connections outside of the hub’s doors.
“A teacher reached out to me because she wanted to connect her students with Black entrepreneurs as a project for Black History Month,” manager Kelman recounted. “So I connected them to certain people [at Kreate], anyone who wanted to participate, and then she connected them with kids in her classroom.”
For Kelman, no interaction is too small. “You’re touching another life, and maybe sparking another idea.”