Last weekend, Michael Brown’s long-envisioned dreams exhibited the first signs of realization to Spokane’s East Central neighborhood in the form of a vibrant mural on the side of a dilapidated building on east Fifth Avenue. The location is the site of what last was home to Flippers Ice Creamery, and where Brown now intends to create his mission-driven restaurant called Fresh Soul.
The colorful occasion drew dozens of Gonzaga students from a class titled “Art, Race, and Public Space: U.S. Murals” taught by professor Shalon Parker. Under the vision and direction of local artist Ellen Picken, students had the opportunity to learn outside the classroom, while brushing up their painting skills in the process. While the students’ contribution appears in small, brightly colored squares spread across a background of bright blue, these shapes are some of the first physical stepping stones toward the restaurant’s future opening in early 2016.
While Fresh Soul is expected to operate as a café serving southern-style cuisine, its mission transcends beyond food. Brown, a long time resident of the East Central neighborhood, envisions Fresh Soul to be a place that benefits the area’s youth through employment, job training, and mentorship with the goal of empowering students to further their education. The nonprofit restaurant is the manifestation of a grassroots initiative to foster transferable job skills to local teens through a number of community partners. One of these partners is Spokane Eastside Reunion Association, an organization that strives to promote community through basketball camps, mentoring, tutoring, and now, through its support of the local café.
“Fresh Soul is going to be much more than just a restaurant,” Brown says. “We want to motivate and teach our kids skills that will inspire them to continue their education, and provide a platform for success and to find their passion.”
A big proponent of the project is to create a physical presence in the community that will hopefully further a sense of revitalization in the East Central area, a lower-income neighborhood of Spokane. While this past weekend filled the block of East Fifth with a little more color, Fresh Soul is still seeking the remaining funds needed to open, an estimated $100,000. Find more information and stay updated on its progress here.