Behind the long beard and black T-shirt that says “This Year I Lost My Mind” is Christopher Morrison Blackwell, an unassuming artist, visionary, and serial entrepreneur. It all started in 2010 with a small DIY zine press, which over time grew into Hungry Ghost Press, an edgy lifestyle brand and brick-and-mortar shop stocked with printed apparel, patches and buttons, home goods, and more, much of which celebrates its Olneyville (AKA Lonelyville) location.
Around the time Hungry Ghost Press turned 10, Blackwell co-created House of the Rising Star, LLC, a realty management and holding company that is currently in the process of revitalizing a federally preserved historic mill building. “It’s a large 17,000-square-foot blighted and abandoned mill from 1836,” says Blackwell, who created a GoFundMe for the 239 Oak Street project. Plans for the building include the HGP shop as its anchor, an art gallery, and marketplaces held on the street. The second floor will be a combination of rentable units and pop-up spaces for artists and small businesses. Blackwell, who plans to live on part of the third floor with his wife, hopes to also create affordable live-work spaces. Other irons in the fire are collabs with The Steel Yard to create trash and recycling cans and a bike rack, and working with PVD Community Fridge to host a free refrigerated food pantry outside the building.
Just last year, Blackwell started Lonelyville Events Management, LLC to host and organize events in Olneyville. “All events are free and open to the public,” he explains. “Vendors pay no fee and are provided with a table and tent, hopefully alleviating some of the costs and constraints that come with vending and selling their work,” he explains. “Our aim is to celebrate artists, makers, and small businesses while providing a place for people to get together to shop, dance, eat, drink, and have a good time!”
Reason for Optimism: “I’m so excited for our building project to finish up and feel like I’ve spent a lot of 2022 talking and working with staff, with our paid mentees from the Providence Housing Authority, MET School, and Comprehensive Community Action Plan, that I know we will be able to do so many more amazing projects and get to work with them and the community in so many more ways. I’m stoked to see our team grow and the absolutely incredible things that they put out.”
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