A love affair with Word Up

Not just authors but all kinds of artists found a home at Word Up. Maggie Hernandez, whose artwork and books were both available at the bookshop, writes about her first encounter with Word Up and her development of JourneySpace, which will be previewed on December 16 at the United Palace (see the end of this post for the details on JourneySpace, and click here for details on how you can bring back Word Up!):

My love affair with Word Up began four hours before it opened. I had recently published a wellness book when I arrived to drop off copies for the bookstore’s opening. A volunteer greeted me at the door with, “Can you stay and help?” It caught me totally off-guard. Shelves were empty, books still in boxes. There were disheveled windows and bare walls, except for a beautiful mural up front. OMG!!!! They really needed help.

I dreaded making the phone call to my husband who would surely be angry; having to change his plans to stay home with our five-year-old. I barely finished my sentence when the call went dead. Click! I sure hoped staying there to help was worth it.

Then what seemed like an army of people—Word Up volunteers—came and performed a miracle. Artwork was hung, windows dressed. Shelves were filled with books, a reading nook created for kids. Mission accomplished. The first pop-up bookstore in Northern Manhattan came to life!

From the Illuminated Abstractions exhibit.
Photo: Maggie Hernandez

But Word Up was more than a pop-up bookstore. As months passed and Word Up stayed beyond its initial welcome, it morphed into an accessible space for community members to share their many interests. At Word Up, I could be the visual artist, AND the personal development author, AND the wellness workshop leader. When the time came for me to share my NoMAA grantee project, “Illuminated Abstractions,” I thought of no better place to show it than Word Up.

Nearly two years after my initial encounter with Word Up, I find myself developing what will now become JourneySpace; an accessible place for wellness through the arts! As I write this, I come to understand more fully why Word Up is so close to my heart. It was an incubator that allowed me to dream up ways to merge my passions.

Thank you Word Up for popping up (I couldn’t resist) at the right time!

Maggie Hernandez-Knight
Founder & Director, JourneySpace.org


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