If you’re looking for an organization comparable to Flemington DIY, you could be searching for quite a while. From humble beginnings, a group of like-minded volunteers with lofty aspirations has helped transcend this local community art space into an institution, and a vital resource for the greater NJ area.
After finding a new home in the revitalized Stangl Road section in Flemington Borough’s Arts & Cultural District last year, FDIY has been thrust into hyperdrive, utilizing the location as a workshop, studio, venue, community center and hub for a diverse portfolio of programming that’s designed to serve people of all ages and interests.
On May 20, Flemington DIY will celebrate its nine year anniversary with a full-day party that highlights the aforementioned multi-functional nature of the organization and their new facility. Guests of the event will have the opportunity to enjoy a group bike ride with Party Size Cycling, check out new artwork created by volunteers/members at the open gallery (and screen print a commemorative shirt at the print shop), take in a rock show and more—all while exploring the nearby shops, galleries, brewery/distillery and everything that burgeoning Stangl Road has to offer.
Ahead of Saturday’s event, NJ Indy discussed the past, present and future of Flemington DIY with some of its integral administrators/members:
What is your biggest takeaway since reopening?
Nicole Maniez (volunteer and board member): We are all volunteers and our volunteer force is everything! We wouldn’t exist without the dedication of so many individuals coming together as a collective. It amazes me that we have been alive for nine years and that we continue to build, including such a wide range of people’s passions. The group that keeps DIY going keeps growing, and it is amazing.
Any newcomers that have been instrumental?
Roia Rafieyan (volunteer): I think the Flemington QTs (organized by Jae Hoff and Elliott Franklin) have done some amazing things for DIY. They’ve curated a lending library, organized Trans Day of Visibility, taught a class on paper-making, and they’re working on organizing a Pride Prom, among other things. They’ve been encouraging and made numerous helpful suggestions in terms of how to make DIY more welcoming and accessible to more people.
Maniez: The ASL chats and social nights lead by Justine R. have been really popular. Again, it is so great to see people bringing the skills and passions they have to DIY and watching it flourish.
What have you enjoyed most about the new location you moved into early last year?
Jeff Hersch (executive director and co-founder): It was bittersweet to vacate our old space [on Main Street, Flemington], but only because it was all we ever knew up until that point. But since our move to the up-and-coming Arts & Cultural District on Stangl Road, it’s been hard to imagine anything better. Existing in a bright blue stand-alone building really helps us stand out and catch people’s attention, especially curious folks just passing by.
The new spot has given us so many opportunities to collaborate with businesses there—Humdoo Ice Cream, Lone Eagle Brewing, Factory Fuel, to name a few. A lot of annual street fairs and festivals happen along Stangl Road too, which is so fulfilling for us. The new space definitely feels like home.
Favorite memory from the past nine years?
Maniez: Planning events and collaborating with each other is a key memory (and joy) for me. I remember sitting at Lone Eagle years ago with Jeff and another volunteer having beers and just imagining what DIY could be. Its present form and its present location is beyond what we could have imagined at the time.
What are you most looking forward to in DIY’s future?
Rafieyan: I feel as if we’re slowly building a community of people who are as excited about the existence of a place like DIY as those of us who volunteer here are. There are a number of things I’d love to see us move toward: making sure we’re a safe space where people, especially young people, can come and explore their creativity and working toward figuring out ways in which we can be more accommodating to disabled people (for example, art exhibits that can be experienced by people who are blind/visually impaired, concerts/talks with sign interpreters). Personally, I’d love to find a way to create a space at DIY for difficult conversations to happen—even better, to do it using the arts—in order to build stronger social connections among people who have different ideologies. We have an incredible group of volunteers who have remarkable ideas and who work hard to make them happen, and I’m always proud to be able to tell visitors what new opportunities there are to take part in.
Apart from the nine-year anniversary, anything new to promote?
Maniez: We are collaborating with Indigenous students up in Canada to produce an art show that promotes the visibility and artwork of Indigenous artists across North America. We will be doing a fundraiser for it soon, so stay tuned on how you can help!
Jae Hoff (Flemington QTs and DIY volunteer): We are huge supporters of the community arts, and we are so glad that we have the amazing space that is DIY. We love being able to walk down Stangl and see what’s happening in town. DIY is an essential space in our community for people to come together, share knowledge and resources, learn more about different people and skills, go to concerts, or just hang out with others! We’re thankful to get to be a part of what DIY does to grow the Flemington community and have a safe space to host events for the LGBTQIA+ community.