KANKAKEE — Feed Arts and Cultural Center in downtown Kankakee has closed, but its president and co-founder said the concept lives on.
“Feed is still an idea. It’s still a thing. We just don’t have a physical space,” said Michael Costanza, the organization’s only president. “Maybe we’ll do it again. We’re just hanging it up for now.”
Started in November 2013 at 259 S. Schuyler Ave., Feed, a not-for-profit organization, officially opened to the public in April 2014.
The location became a home away from home for area artists to explore their creativity and display their works. The location quickly became a gathering spot for those willing to further their concepts.
The about 3,000-square-foot location, owned by Kankakee businessman Rick Jones, now is vacant.
Jones said a new lease has not yet been signed, but a business owner has shown a strong desire to lease the location. He said the lease could be signed shortly.
Kankakee Development Corporation president Chris Curtis said the news brought sadness to him and the downtown.
“I understand why they are closing,” Curtis said. “It’s a lot of work to keep something like that going. But in my mind, Feed has been a success story. I’m proud of what they accomplished. They are not closing out of failure. You can only spread yourself so thin.”
The Feed location had monthly leases with about 25 area artists. Costanza said the number had been as high as 40 as recently as two years ago.
The organization was run entirely by volunteers, including Costanza. Costanza, 37, has been an art teacher with the Kankakee School District since the 2017-18 school year. He and his wife, Kelly, are the parents of two boys.
If anyone thought this was an easy decision, they need only to talk to Costanza to learn this was a painful move.
“We’ve been grieving and that has come in different forms,” he said. “But this hurts. It hurts a lot.”
Feed had been meeting its rental obligation. Even though the KDC backed the organization during its first year, Feed always had been able to meet its responsibilities.
Although Feed’s lease was not expiring until February 2020, Costanza said he and the members felt as if the time was right now.
“We thought why fight through the winter. It felt right to end it this summer,” he said.
Jones said he, too, was sad to see Feed end its stay.
“They did a nice job there, and they were a good group of people,” he said. “I understand that people’s lives pull them in different directions.”
Despite enduring some ups and downs during the years, Costanza said through it all, Feed endured and was a positive presence.
He said an early 2019 fundraising campaign to help support the organization gained almost no response from the public. He said of the 400 letters mailed, only three replied with a pledge of financial support.
“Just the energy level to keep this going came to be exhausting,” he said.
He said since the news of the closing has become more known, the outpouring of love has been incredible.
“That outpouring makes me feel so good,” Costanza said.
And, he said, what Feed helped instill in the community will not simply fade away.
“What is the long-lasting power of this space?” he asked. “It proved to me that people are powerful. When we sit down and listen and understand one another, big things are possible.
“The people of Feed helped our downtown come back. People are growing businesses around here. The Feed space is gone, but Feed is not gone.”