Significant changes are coming to The Hive, a creative space launched by Julia Fournier and Steve Helffrich back in 2010. Its new owner, Tennille Neilsen, expects to ink the deal in late October. But she’s already working to transform the space to meet her own vision.
Located on 16th Street south of Thomas Road, The Hive is a staple of the Phoenix arts scene. It’s home to several creative businesses, studios, and retail spaces, plus a coffee shop and gallery. The venue also has two outdoor spaces, including a central courtyard that’s used for events like poetry readings or acoustic musical performances.
Today, it’s anchored by Fournier’s vintage retail shop called The Bee’s Knees, which sits near the entrance to The Hive. Fournier will be downsizing this fall, moving her shop to a smaller studio space off the courtyard. After that, three smaller shops will share the larger front section of the building.
It’s one of many changes coming to the space, which will likely happen over time.
“We wanted someone who would carry on with the community space focus,” says Fournier. “Tennille is absolutely committed to that.”
Even so, Neilsen intends to give it her own twist — without losing the things that first attracted her to The Hive.
Neilsen discovered the place after moving to the Coronado neighborhood. About two years ago, she began dropping in for coffee, sometimes bringing her journal so she could write. She started doing collage and artist books, and got the go-ahead from Fournier to set up a pop-up shop during Third Friday in October 2018.
Eventually, Neilsen rented space at The Hive, and stumbled on the opportunity to buy the whole property. One day she spotted people wearing suits on the property, where the typical garb is T-shirts and shorts or a casual sundress. That tipped her off to the fact that changes were afoot.
“I learned that they were talking about selling the place, and I asked Julia if I could have a go at it,” Neilsen recalls. Once they struck a deal, it was time to begin making changes, such as cleaning out the back lot and sprucing up the courtyard with its makeshift concrete stage. “I’m definitely going to add some polish, but I don’t want to corporatize the space.”
Right now, Neilsen’s priority is creating more ways for people to gather at The Hive. “I’m hearing so many people say they need to get out, so I’m going to try and make it COVID-friendly,” Neilsen explains. She’s picturing separate “islands” on the back lot, so small groups can rent them for things like sharing meals or watching movies together.
She’s hoping to carve out additional studio spaces, giving more artists places to work and do pop-up art shows or sales. She’ll be repurposing the current gallery space to help make that happen. Instead of a formal gallery, The Hive will have other ways for artists to share their work. “We want to make sure that area gets used beyond First and Third Fridays,” Neilsen explains.
Even the beloved murals will change in coming months. Today, the exterior north-facing wall features a collaborative work by Thomas “Breeze” Marcus, Dwayne "Dwayno Insano" Manuel, and Los Angeles artist Vyal. The front of the building includes small side-by-side murals painted by several artists, including Amanda Adkins, Ashley Macias, Jenny Odom, and others.
Neilsen plans to replace them with new murals, and she’s devising an art contest to help make it happen. She’ll invite artists to paint vintage chairs, then choose muralists based on which designs get the most votes from community members. So far, there’s no firm timeline for making that happen.
Instead, Neilsen is working on improvements like fresh paint for interior walls, and finding ways to maximize social distancing, expecting that the pandemic will still be a factor when she takes over the property in early November.
“We’re very nervous about doing this during COVID-19," she says, "but we’re willing to go forward with the risk to help bring happiness to the community that we love.”
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.