Q&A: Maritt Vaessin of MINT Art Collective

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Just as the members of MINT Art Collective were getting comfortable at their South Side digs, their world was turned upside down. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the building at 42 W. Jenkins Ave. was burglarized. Pipes and plumbing were destroyed, and more than $3,500 worth of power tools were taken in what appeared to be a professionally executed crime.

The unfortunate event may have wrecked the building, but the MINT group is even more determined to dig in and create the art collective and mixed-use space they originally planned.

After an outpouring of support from community members and businesses, MINT collective members have a renewed sense of purpose and are ready to move past the setback. In true MINT form, the mixed-use space will play host to “Refresh,” a mixed-bag event featuring a dance party, art opening, silent auction and fundraiser on Friday, Dec. 19 at the MINT space on the South Side.

Alive spoke with MINT collective member Maritt Vaessin, whose personal equipment loss totals roughly $2,500, about the ordeal and the collective’s new-found determination to make MINT happen.

We believe it was a professional job. The Saturday following Thanksgiving, we returned to MINT after the holiday and found water gushing from the building out on the street. The pipes had been totally mangled. We had no idea what was going on. We saw the garage door had been pulled from the frame, and we called the cops. At first we just thought people were trying to get scrap metal or copper, but then we found out many of the power tools in the woodshop had been stolen. After getting a general idea of what had been taken, we left. The next day we returned and a light was on. A bunch more stuff had been taken and they had lined up more loads of stuff near the door to take from the building. They must have had big trucks to move some of the equipment they took. We got really scared and called the cops again. We couldn’t stay there because it was unsafe, but we felt helpless and targeted because they obviously planned to keep coming back. All our time and energy went into this amazing space, and it felt like we were under siege. They took more than $3,500 worth of tools.

Something like this couldn’t have come at a worse time. We officially opened in August, so we were finally getting artists moved in and had some great collaborations with The King Arts Complex slated. Personally, I was working on a portfolio for grad school, and all the tools I needed to complete my projects were taken. However, we believe this is just a setback. Dec. 19 was originally supposed to be a launch party/ art opening for Refigural, a new fashion-based magazine in Columbus. We decided to keep the date, and make it part fundraiser, dance party and silent auction as well.

Even though [the burglary] set us back, we are determined to make MINT better than ever.As an artist, you often feel like you’re perpetually failing; it makes good art. It’s been such a dream come true for us [as a collective] to even have this space and bring in the shows and dance parties we’ve hosted, that there is no way we would let this sully our plan. Throughout the process, we have seen insane community support, and there has been this overarching feeling [among collective members] that we can figure this out. We decided to open on the South Side because we believe MINT would have a positive effect on the community — the burglary just makes us even more determined to make it work.

We are blown away by the support we have received from the community. As soon as we announced what happened, we received an outpouring of community support. Debra Dyer and Cougar Geeks at CSCC donated four fully set-up computers, BlockWatch has offered us a discounted security system, and Watershed Church of Columbus has offered to pay the remaining cost of a security system and provide a year’s worth of free services. In five days we raised nearly a quarter of our GoFundMe goal, and Kareem Jackson [of Milk Bar] agreed to hold Milk Bar’s farewell party on Feb. 14 at MINT, with all the proceeds going to our cause. On top of that, tons of artists have donated art to the silent auction. It is reassuring to know that people like what we are doing and want to support it.

Photos by Meghan Ralston

Age: 25

Hometown: Columbus

Current Neighborhood: Merion Village

Day job: Research assistant at OSU

Currently listening to: Dark Dark Dark's album Wild Go

Playing favorites:

Favorite movie: Švankmajer's?? "Alice"

Favorite TV show: "Casey Jane Ellison's 'Touching the Art' on Youtube."

Favorite restaurant: Tasi

Favorite beverage/drink: Mother Culture Kombucha

Best way to spend $10 in Columbus: "Currently: Donate it to MINT. At other times: Grab a cup of coffee or three at Upper Cup!"