Places that Matter
4W Circle of Art & Enterprise (former)
Place Matters Profile
4W Circle closed at the end of January, 2008.
"Women Working and Winning for the World"--these are the 4 W’s represented in 4W Circle of Art & Enterprise, a women’s collaborative store in Fort Greene that features, primarily, African and African-inspired works by local designers and artists. So important is this local business founded in 1991, that when it was destroyed by fire in the mid-1990s community members rallied to keep it from being lost.
Four women developed the concept of 4W as a cooperative space where artisans could meet, sell their products, hopefully jump-start their businesses, and create an appreciation for the artistry of hand-made goods. The store's trademark is uniqueness. Selma Jackson, the current owner, takes pride that its customers come to 4W to find gifts for special occasions that they cannot find anywhere else. Over 20 different vendors have products for sale in the store, which is particularly known for selling objects from Africa or with an Afrocentric flair. And, it has begun to exhibit artwork from local artists.
4W also serves as a distinctive venue for community events including the Black Achievers Awards, fashion shows, book signings by local talent, and a variety of craft classes. Jackson says instructors try to show how to create affordable design, encouraging the use of products from local establishments.
4W’s invaluable role in Fort Greene became apparent in May of 1996 when the shop was completely destroyed by a fire. The community would not allow it to be lost--surrounding merchants and residents immediately rallied to save 4W. Clothing designer Moshood, owner of a neighboring shop, gave half of his store to 4W to sell goods until it got back on its feet, and the hardware store down the street stored its excess stock. Many of the other businesses on Fulton Street chipped in by holding a benefit to raise money for 4W. In September, only five months after the fire, 4W was back in business as a result of this amazing community effort.
4W continues to thrive as a viable business and a strong community and cultural center. The organization also continues to play a leading role in local business and merchant associations, whose members have long been concerned that they are neither reaping the benefits nor avoiding the fall-out from private and public development plans in their area.