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4W comes full circle

The Brooklyn Paper

4W Circle of Art and Enterprise, the Fulton Street arts “incubator” that will, after nearly two decades, close at the end of the month, has one last gift for the community (and one last marketing opportunity for its resident artist-merchants): a bittersweet blow-out party on Sunday, Jan. 27.

It’s bittersweet, because owner Selma Jackson has done more than her part for Fort Greene, nurturing a number of creative enterprises, including clothing designers Courtney Washington, also on Fulton Street, and Tribal Truths Collection, on South Oxford Street.

Her departure from the scene has prompted some of the standard complaints about increased rents, but Jackson swears there’s no need to rally around the anti-gentrification flag.

“I have three grandchildren that I don’t really get a chance to spend a lot of time with,” said Jackson. “I wouldn’t even say [increasing] rent is the lion’s share of the reason we’re closing.”

Jackson, a one-time bank manager, helped found 4W, or “Women Working and Winning for the World,” 17 years ago. It sprang, in part, from Jackson’s realization that it was difficult for artists to get small business loans. Jackson rented a storefront on Fulton Street for $2,000 a month, and then subleased that space to aspiring artist retailers, helping them learn what it takes to run a business. She focused on women of color.

But times have changed, said Jackson. Artists aren’t as interested in leasing space (the rates are now about $650 a month). Instead, they want Jackson to sell their products on consignment, but she’s not interested in that business model.

In closing, Jackson is forcing her existing artists to take the next step.

“For me it means having to move on,” said Cae Byng, the owner J&L Handmade Soap, who makes her product in her Crown Heights home and sells it at 4W. “I don’t feel too negative about it, because the whole design of 4W is that you move on. It’s the next step.”

4W closing party (704 Fulton St., between South Oxford Street and South Portland Avenue), Sunday, Jan. 27, 3 pm until closing. Call (718) 875-6500 for info.

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stash from fort greene says:
It's sad not to have Selma and 4W nearby anymore. And noone has taken her emptied space after a year since her closing. Although exclusively Afro-centric, 4W was almost a landmark. Selma herself got recognition and an award from the Pratt Area Community Council- PACC- now trying to establish a Fulton Street BID- not espcially favored by existing small businesses,who are struggling to survive and pay their rents. PACC has become a slumlord as well -
April 29, 2009, 6:02 pm

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