$50K Grant Will Help Comic Book Store Owner Ariell Johnson To Make Comics More Diverse

Ariell Johnson plans to use the money to create courses for those than want to break into comics.

Meet Ariell Johnson, a Philly resident and owner of Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, a uniquely spacious yet cozy comic book store and coffee bar. True to its name, Johnson’s goal for the comic book shop is to reach an “amalgamation” of audiences.

Well, it looks like she’ll be getting that chance!

Philly.com reports that the Knight Foundation has chosen Johnson out of more than 4,500 applicants to receive their $50,000 grant!

Her proposal, “Up, Up And Away: Building a Programming Space at Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse,” outlined how Johnson would use the grant to build an educational program to help aspiring comic creators to learn about drawing, writing, pitching and publishing. With this grant, Johnson will be able to further her reach in big ways.

“We do a lot of these programs in our space,” Johnson said, These include children’s workshops. “But the building is actually much bigger. There are rooms behind the bathroom, which we haven’t renovated. This grant will allow us to open up those rooms to the public and create a permanent programming space. We’ll use it to its full potential.”

When she opened her store in December 2015, Johnson became the first African American woman to own a comic book shop on the East Coast.

In just 18 short months, Johnson’s store has already had a great impact on the community.

“I actually found out about the grant from a customer named Annie,” said Johnson. “She and her husband had recently moved here. They came in, introduced themselves and encouraged me to apply. Apparently, Amalgam was one of the reasons they moved to the neighborhood.”

And Ariell Johnson doesn’t let the inclusiveness stop with her mere presence; she’s made it a point to stock works written by people of color, women and LGBT community members. She also showcases a lot of independent work in the store.

With this grant, Johnson hopes that she will be able to have an even greater impact on the community, and that she will be able to empower people to create more inclusive comics

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