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Artists Transform An Abandoned Building On The West Side Into A Free Grocery Store

By Mª del Rosario Castro Díaz

Alt_Market

Alt Space Chicago has repurposed two abandoned buildings to create pop-up markets at which the local community can get food for free.

Abandoned buildings in Chicago’s West Side are being transformed into pop-up markets to help feed the local community. The collective behind the initiative is Alt Space Chicago, an artist-led nonprofit based in Austin that is “is dedicated to revitalizing communities through art and culture and providing an alternative to the narrative.”

Inspired by Little Free Libraries, the artist collective are revitalizing boarded-up buildings simply by adding shelves and turning them into pop-up grocery stores. The artists created the markets as a way of revitalizing a “communal economy” by helping people to come up with meaningful ways of repurposing abandoned buildings. “It’s was very simple to us; we were just putting shelves on an abandoned building and calling it a ‘market.’ But to people, it became a place for them to congregate,” said Jon Veal, co-founder of Alt Space, to the Chicago Sun-Times.

At  Alt_Market, people who need food can take anything they see on the shelves while those who can are encouraged to leave their surplus of non-perishable foods and other groceries. Other non-profits throughout Chicago have also partnered with the artists to help keep these markets well stocked. Such is the case of Grocery Run Club which has been stocking the shelves of Alt_Market Austin with everything from canned goods to dish soap and other sanitary products.

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Earlier in June, the team had given out hundreds of care packages to help those communities whose grocery stores and markets had shut down due to the pandemic and the riots. Now Alt Space has installed two markets–one near Austin City Hall and another in the Greater Grand Crossing–in the hopes that they’ll become permanent resources for the local community.

See also: After Manny’s Deli Pleaded For The City’s Help, Chicagoans Showed Up In Droves

[Featured image: @alt_chicago, Instagram]