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Building Confidence One Bead at a Time


Thanks to the creative minds that make up our community, Kalamazoo has steadily developed a reputation as a city with a dynamic arts scene. Naturally, it would make sense that members of this scene would recognize the importance of passing on their talents and knowledge to future generations of artists.

Formed in 2003 by jewelry maker Christena Smith, BeadVenture’s mission is to teach youth the art and culture of beading and the entrepreneurial skills to share their work. Following the values of creativity, quality craftsmanship, community, leadership, and integrity, the nonprofit provides a truly unique experience for its artists.

“We have created a safe space that is welcoming for all,” Executive Director Deanna Omoniyi attested. “We serve artists between the ages of 7 and 17, and meet on Mondays from 5:30 to 7 p.m.”

A licensed clinical social worker by trade, Omoniyi was introduced to BeadVenture by a coworker and then-program facilitator who invited her daughter to participate. Since becoming involved, Omoniyi has been impressed with the values and skills that BeadVenture provides its artists.

“We see improved self-esteem, eye contact, and communication when they are engaging with a customer,” she shared. “When an artist sells their first piece of jewelry, you can see the pride on their face.”

Previously based out of the Park Trades Center, BeadVenture was able to move into a 1,300 square-foot retail space on Michigan Avenue called the Handmade Boutique. This is a cooperative space for BeadVenture's Youthpreneurs, as well as local artists and vendors from the community.

“The store is open Monday through Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m.,” she shared. “When the artists make sales, they earn points toward their own supplies and beads that they can keep.”

In addition to acquiring a new space, BeadVenture plans to become its own independent entity. Although the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo (ACGK) is its fiscal sponsor for this year, BeadVenture will become its own nonprofit in 2022.

We are eager to see where Omoniyi and her team take BeadVenture in the future.

Know an artist who might be interested in beading? Connect with BeadVenture’s classes and membership opportunities. To support the nonprofit in its mission, donate via ACGK’s website.

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