Bohemian Place: A Safe Haven for Community, Art, and Healing

Words By Abigail Vela

 

As you walk up to Bohemian Place, you immediately notice the colorful murals encompassing the entirety of its front exterior. A large community art piece with the words “Bohemian Place” is placed on the right side. Colorful words are painted on the ramp leading up to the bright purple door, welcoming guests with the words: “To those who refuse to dim their light, to tone it down, or to be anything other than exactly who they are, we see you and couldn’t be more proud.”

There’s so much vibrancy and energy that encompasses Bohemian Place. Unique works of art immediately greet your eyes, overwhelm your senses, and beckons you to look in every direction. As you explore, you’ll find a room reserved for painting classes on your left, a small boutique of local and artisan products directly ahead, a gallery space to your right, and the expansive and relaxing backyard where most events take place. 

I sat down and spoke with the owner, Monique Jeffrey (she/her), gallery director Tay, and events coordinator Reyna Flores (she/they) to learn more about everything Bohemian Place has to offer the community in the Rio Grande Valley.

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The Beginning of Bohemian Place

Monique is a bold woman of ambition and vision. Bohemian Place began long before its doors were opened via her upbringing and experiences. Monique grew up in an artistic family, constantly surrounded by the arts from youth to her college years, where she applied herself to art and dance classes. 

Soon after, she worked for the Mission Chamber of Commerce after feeling the pressure to find “a real job,” where she learned important lessons on how to start a small business and asked important questions, such as “How were [small businesses] serving their community? What was their mission?” Her following job experiences gave her a fearless determination, strong salesmanship, and becoming more social media savvy in the early days of social media (shoutout to Myspace).

Eventually, Monique’s business experience, the onslaught of COVID, and personal health issues led her to return to the arts. 

“I think I really wanted to come home to the arts because that's where I felt I really belonged, and somewhere along the way, I had convinced myself that that wasn't a real job. [However,] Bohemian Place for me is a real job … and we're going to help other artists pivot into entrepreneurship with their art. So that's how Bohemian Place came to be.”

Of course, she couldn’t dream of a better team to work with than Tay and Reyna. They radiate welcoming and positive energy when you meet them, complementing Monique’s energy, forming a trio that is a force to be reckoned with.

Art Inclusivity for Queer and Trans Communities

Bohemian Place is making waves throughout the RGV by creating a safe space for our queer and trans communities. Tay’s background in community organizing and experiences with their own queer and trans community from Massachusetts made them the perfect organizer for Queering Space.

Queering Space was held on June 23rd and became a needed escape from the harsh political climate with Greg Abbott’s attacks on Trans youth and Trans rights. Many LGBTQIA+ people and vendors were invited to enjoy the night. Tay and Golden Mirror Fortunes hosted Queer Bingo, guests shopped from local small businesses, and an impressive gallery and art selection from local queer, trans, and non-binary artists was displayed for all to explore.

“I think I was [wanting] to showcase queer and trans artists because I think that’s often some of my favorite art,” Tay said, “It was so interesting having like ten or eleven different artists – there was like a thread throughout all of it.” The artworks all stood out at Bohemian Place, very much as “reimaginings of life and depth.”  

“Queer and trans people struggle all the fucking time to survive, and that’s [what] I think is at the core of it for me, is I want more for queer and trans people. I want more than surviving so deeply,” Tay shared, 

“And I was like, yeah, I want to be surrounded by queer and trans people, so like let's throw this.”

Community Joining Together

Events Coordinator, Reyna Flores, runs 9Thrive6, a monthly event that allows vendors, artists, small businesses, and people to share what they love and connect. Reyna explains, “9Thrive6 was just supposed to work with the community; to show them that we really appreciate everything they do and just give everyone a spot to show their art, show what they love, show their hard work, and share something that we all love, which is just the community. We appreciate everyone that comes through.” She adds, “It’s about opportunity and giving everybody a place where they feel safe and welcome. That’s what 9Thrive6 is really about.”

Alongside 9Thrive6, Bohemian Place has partnered with organizations like Puro Amor RGV to provide a space where women and people center conversations about body positivity. Partnerships with other vendors and artists, such as Modern Day Hippie and Camp Oso, have facilitated events such as the Zero Waste Market to promote sustainability and give back “little treasures” to the RGV community.

Another ongoing opportunity for community members to participate in includes the weekly painting parties, where guests, regardless of painting experience, can express themselves through prepared line art that local artists have designed. Artists can also sign up to their monthly studio membership to utilize their space and studio and create some art!

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Safety is the Top Priority

Throughout these extremely divisive and challenging times, Bohemian Place team has safety measures to ensure safety within the space for all guests. Those safety measures include having two designated “safety people” in place at all times during the events to safeguard the doors and mitigate any potential threats or acts of violence, which will not be tolerated. Vendors are encouraged to reach out to any event organizer at any time if something is wrong, regardless of the situation. Safety will always be their top priority.

 

What the Future Holds in Store

“Art is so imperative to our healing,” Monique expressed as I posed the question about what the future holds for this space. She and her team’s vision for Bohemian Place are to cultivate and share their passion for the arts with all the communities throughout the Rio Grande Valley. “I really love having a space to facilitate [important conversations] where these groups, these organizations, can come together.” 

Tay added, “I would like Bohemian Place to be as if it is run by community. I would like it to be a space that is so collaborative that everybody is getting their say… It’s so possible and I would love to see that happen here.”

Bohemian Place offers a lot of safety, inclusivity, and opportunities for artists, vendors, and organizations to come together and share what they love to do. This transformational and inviting venue is on an upward trajectory of growth. Through events like Queering Space and 9Thrive6, alongside partnerships with artists and organizations, this space continues to find innovative ways to connect with the RGV community. It provides a safe space for (in Monique, Reyna, and Tay’s words): “dreaming,” “community,” “healing,” and a “creative outlet.” It is a place of expression where one can enter and feel as though they are in a unique microcosm where they can fully immerse their senses in art and feel free to be themselves.

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