Jenke: the art of building community

How does one start a community, or even a culture? 

Well, it seems something quite close to that is going down at Burlington’s own Jenke Arts Collective, located at 19 Church St.

The space was founded by 28-year-old Tommy Alexander and 27-year-old Matthew Mantone

It opened halfway through 2013, first as a recording studio and then grew recently into a center for affordable classes, concerts and other community events. 

“The goal from the very beginning [has been to] offer something to people for free or for cheap, for musicians in the scene,” Mantone said. 

“We love music, we love arts – it pays for itself.”

The two of them work together to ensure Jenke’s success as a cheap and accessible means of entering the local artistic culture. 

Alexander handles the studio aspect since he has expertise with music and recording. 

He has managed Burlington acts such as hip-hop group Bless the Child and also plays in his own groups, such as folk duo Quiet Lion.

Meanwhile, Mantone takes care of the schedule and planning with the Collective, making sure that the potential for community outreach and culture is perfected.

Every day of the week, something – whether it’s a yoga class, self-defense instruction, hoop dancing lessons or a concert – is happening at Jenke

“[We wanted to] be able to offer 100-plus hours of something to do that is affordable for people – something to do during the winter to keep spirits up,” Alexander said.

To Jenke’s founders, the space can be summed up in one word: golden. 

The atmosphere is calm and welcoming, and the center’s purpose is to foster growth within the Burlington art scene, Alexander and Mantone said.

As a non-profit, Jenke has gained the help of local craftsmen and artists towards renovation and events. 

Through connections in local industries, Alexander and Mantone managed to transform all dimensions of the space, turning it into a location for shows and courses. 

“When we first came here, this was an ugly space,” Mantone said. 

“[However] over the course of a year, we transformed this into something which is arguably a very beautiful space.”

Jenke Arts held a free concert, which showcased local experimental band Quiet Battles  on Jan. 17. 

The show was preceded by a band-provided tea service, as the group got their equipment completely set up. 

As an example of the “golden” tone of Jenke Arts, the concert held up quite well. 

“It was a nice, very laid-back show,” said first-year Willow Hunt. 

“[It was] an awesome atmosphere and very relaxing; I feel like it’s got a great location and has a ton of potential,” she said.

Mantone intends for the space to be not only a great place for students to be able to have fun at, but to have an easy opportunity to play within the music scene themselves. 

“Coming to events is a great way for people on campus – artists, musicians – to link out to the community,” Mantone said.

“We have so many artists that are part of our crew…this has been a real hub for people to network,” he said.

As for now, Jenke’s recording studio is closed for business until after construction on their space is complete. 

The main focus is, at the moment, towards the Jenke Arts event schedule, with its classes and concerts.