MINT Art Collective has a lot to celebrate. Despite a potentially devastating break-in last fall that could have resulted in MINT shuttering for good, the South Side DIY mixed-use space is thriving. Alive chatted with members Marisa Espe and Alex Buchan about MINT's first year, and what's next for the grassroots art space.

MINT Art Collective has a lot to celebrate. Despite a potentially devastating break-in last fall that could have resulted in MINT shuttering for good, the South Side DIY mixed-use space is thriving. Alive chatted with members Marisa Espe and Alex Buchan about MINT's first year, and what's next for the grassroots art space.

"This year has been a learning process with a lot of fumbling around. But our space survived because we fill a niche in the city, " Espe said in an early August interview. "We engage with people who aren't necessarily 'art' people. Contemporary art permeates all aspects of life."

Last August after having difficulty finding budget-friendly studio space, members CJ Brazelton and Joel Bengson decided to create affordable communal art studios and event space for local artists. With the help of member Marritt Vaessin, the group found a 17,000-square-foot former meat processing facility that became MINT Art Collective. After playing host to successful parties and art exhibitions, MINT seemed to have found its footing within the Columbus art scene.

But right when the DIY space was hitting its stride, MINT was burglarized in what appeared to be a professional job. Over Thanksgiving Weekend, nearly $3,500 worth of equipment was stolen, and the building itself sustained extensive pipe and plumbing damage as a result.

"The break-in was devastating. We had put in so much time and effort to get [MINT] off the ground," Espe said.

Such a devastating loss could have been the end of the project, but an outpouring of community support from fellow artists and community members fast-tracked MINT's restoration. Columbus State Community College donated four computers, BlockWatch offered a discounted security system, and Watershed Church of Columbus offered to pay the remaining cost of a security system and provide a year's worth of free services. In five days, MINT raised nearly a quarter of their $4,000 GoFundMe goal. The support fueled the collective members to recommit to their mission.

"The amount of unsolicited support we received after that gave us an extra push to keep the space alive," Espe said.

Not only was the space restored, but MINT is thriving more than ever. In addition to provocative art exhibitions and monthly parties like the LGBTQ friendly "Toothpaste" and "Future Maudit," MINT has branched out to dinner parties and special film screenings. Contrast Music's popular all-nighter "Midwest Fresh" set up shop in the Grey Area space within MINT in July.

MINT's membership has nearly doubled since its inception. New member Alex Buchan recently joined the collective, crediting MINT's accepting culture as the main draw.

"It was the first safe space I really found. I wanted to be surrounded by these supportive community members and have the ability to bounce ideas off of people. " Buchan, 23, said. "I want to see MINT Collective acting as an entity. I want to have collaborative works and conversations coming together as MINT, and putting something out there."

MINT hopes to keep expanding, both in membership and in programming. The collective hopes to engage "non-art" people with more member-run workshops, a community garden and artist collaborations.

"MINT is about having freedom to have outlandish event, and be whoever you are," Espe said. "As long as the event is safe and fits within our inclusive atmosphere, we're into it. We don't have anyone to answer to, so we don't have limits."