Creative reuse shop Indigo Hippo in Over-the-Rhine is making creativity accessible to everyone.

Alisha Budkie is no stranger to the world of creativity in Cincinnati. Before she opened up her creative reuse shop, Indigo Hippo, the same space was used for a boutique called Rock, Paper, Scissors, which sold locally made, sustainably sourced art materials and also served as an art gallery. Before that, the corner spot on Main Street in Over The Rhine served as a storefront for Alisha’s handmade shoe brand, Smartfish.

Indigo Hippo Storefront
Indigo Hippo Storefront
Indigo Hippo Inside
Indigo Hippo Inside

During this time, Alisha discovered that the community aspect of owning a business in Cincinnati was what she loved the most about her work. Simultaneously, Alisha was introduced to the idea of creative reuse: basically, thrift stores for art supplies. She found herself surprised that a city like Cincinnati, where the creative community is alive and strong, didn’t already have one!

So, Alisha and her co-founder Emily Farison went on an investigative mission to find out if Cincinnatians could really use a creative reuse shop. Was there really a need for it? Would locals get a lot out of it? Who else could benefit from such a resource? The two took their questions and held a few vision casting sessions with people from all arenas of life - creatives and non-artists alike.

Alisha and Emily found their answer, and not long after, Indigo Hippo was opened.

Giving Art Materials A Second Life

On the surface, Indigo Hippo is an art store. But peel back one layer at a time and it’s so much more. The creative reuse arm of the company makes creativity accessible to everyone. When you walk into a more traditional art store, you’ll see a lot of fancy art supplies, most of which are pretty expensive, which can be quite intimidating for pretty much anyone who didn’t attend art school. But Indigo Hippo is providing a space for anyone to create something: not just local artists but also teachers, parents, kids, visitors, and people who don’t even consider themselves creative. The shop works on a donation-based system, which means that everything in the store would most likely have either sat in someone’s basement for years until it was no longer usable or sent to fill up a landfill. Emily says they get so many people who come in with armfuls of brand new supplies to donate and say, ‘I would have just thrown this out!’

Indigo Hippo Staff
Indigo Hippo Staff
Indigo Hippo Paint
Indigo Hippo Paint
Crayons
Crayons
Indigo Hippo Paper
Indigo Hippo Paper

“We’ve been able to redirect a ton of materials from getting pitched,” says Emily. “We’re very fortunate to receive a lot of great materials and distribute them throughout the community to people who wouldn’t be able to get their hands on these supplies otherwise, and be able to connect with people through that.”

The team at Indigo Hippo accepts donations of unwanted art materials of all kinds, from paint and pastels to paper and markers to beads and string to fabric and glue. The donations are then sold at the storefront at the lowest possible price in order to continue to make art accessible to anyone and everyone.

Using The Power Of Creativity To Strengthen Communities

Being in Cincinnati is perhaps one of the Founders’ favorite parts of their business. Emily describes Cincinnati as “a big, little city,” where you have the culture of a big city where opportunities abound, but you also experience the warm and welcoming nature of a smaller one, where connections are made easily. “We’re a city full of dreamers,” she says, where you can almost always find someone willing to help you out, make an introduction, or share a resource. “Everyone is very helpful and things are always blossoming from people coming together,” Emily says. “Cincinnati is very special that way.”

That’s why Indigo Hippo’s second arm involves working with community partners to carry out visual arts programming throughout the city. Through after school programs, summer camps for underserved youth and their families, classes that help entrepreneurs gain confidence and access their creativity, and even pottery making classes for the visually-impaired, Indigo Hippo is bringing the healing and hope to all kinds of members of the community, using art to facilitate mental and emotional growth.

The third and final (for now) arm of Indigo Hippo includes a gallery space, where art work created by everyone, including those involved in their arts programming, can be displayed, shared, and celebrated. To bring these unwanted art supplies full circle, give them a second life, and empower the community through doing so is exactly what Indigo Hippo is all about.

Follow Indigo Hippo on Instagram and Facebook and be sure to stop by to flame your own creativity.

Writer Bio: Abigail Davidson is a writer and entrepreneur who loves Cincinnati. You can visit her at abigailrdavidson.com or say hi on Instagram at @abigailRdavidson.