Create + Heal + Live +Transform
words by John Dayo-Aliya, photos by Shane Wynn
A home is born of the energies that animates its rooms, the lovelight that lingers in its expanse. The element that makes Alchemy House, an upstart artistic healing and wellness hub located on East Ave, a home is the calm, inviting energy of its owner, Anika Ame.
Anika‘s life and work is a challenge to monolithic narratives of Black life. When she speaks of herself and her mission at Alchemy House, very rarely does she mention the struggle to discover personal fulfilment against the backhand of inner-city poverty. Nor does she speak much of the brutal buckshot of systemic oppression. Instead, she speaks of the wonders of expression through artistic creation to transcend the ravages of trauma. Instead of focusing on the pain of black life, Anika speaks of healing. To be honest, as a black man whose life work often deals with the myriad struggles of being black in America, my conversation with Anika was a breath of much needed fresh air.
Anika was born into a family of healers and movers and shakers who taught her the power of using her work ethic and the power of using her will to create and sustain her own destiny. Her grandfather, Raphael Cross, ran a beauty supply store and barbershop on Copley Road since the early 70s. The barbershop, Ray & Jim’s, is still open, but the beauty supply store closed in the 1980s. Anika says witnessing her family’s DIY spirit made starting her own business feel like second nature.
“My goal with Alchemy House is for it to be utilized as a way for artists to create revenue for themselves by selling their work or offering their services,” she says. “Whether that be through jewelry making or Reiki and Yoga or anything that the space can facilitate that promotes healing. The hope is that Alchemy House can be the place artists can come to put time and vision into their own work and escape the 9-5 hustle in order to really give their time to their work. “
Anika also credits her family for her love of giving and creating space for others to thrive in.
“I have a passion for sharing my resources. It came from seeing my family’s generosity. They were the kind of people who would be like ‘Do you need a ride?,’ Do you need a few dollars?’ So it was easy for me to reason, ‘Hey, I think healing is important. I think self-care is important. I think it is important that people learn to put good food in their bodies and keep the trash out. I think artistic expression is important and the space to do all those things is important. The question then for me was what resources do I have to give that to Akron? Because it seemed to me these thing were lacking, especially inside the areas in the city with a large black population. This is where Alchemy House was born. To inspire myself and others through what we can create. To show our greatness to ourselves and marvel in it. I think that’s what art does. It allows us to witness the best in ourselves. ”