An independent book and music store in East Liberty Park hopes the community grant will make art more accessible.

Free concerts, art classes and poetry nights are how a small business would use a neighborhood grant.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brandon A. Anderson, at his 9th and 9th Book and Music Gallery in Salt Lake City, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

When the COVID-19 pandemic ended Brandon A. Anderson’s 13-year career as an independent record store manager, he decided to open his own physical store in Salt Lake City.

“I’ve been collecting books since I was 8. I’ve been playing instruments and singing and performing for so long,” Anderson said. “It seemed like the perfect storm and a good opportunity for me to open this store.”

As a devoted lover of music and art, the 9th and 9th Book and Music Gallery is a tribute to the craft that Anderson immersed himself in all his life. The store is at 872 E. 900 South, down an alley across from the Tower Theater, and is stocked with mostly local and second-hand goods like books, records, and instruments.

“Except for very few things,” Anderson noted, “like new harmonicas, because nobody wants a used harmonica.”

Anderson said he envisions the business as more than a retail store. He wants to transform the small storefront into a community center for arts and culture.

The goal, he said, is to create a “safe space” for everyone to feel welcome and showcase their art form. In the afternoon, Anderson said, the kids stop on their way home from school, strum one of the many guitars, and hang out.

“Art is a unifier,” Anderson said. “The more arts access and opportunity you can create for a given community or region, it simply enriches the value of the lives of the people who participate or live in that community.”

Anderson holds free concerts and has built a stage for local musicians in the alley behind his shop. He even hired two artists to paint a mural in the alley. He also organizes free art classes and said he plans to start organizing poetry nights and other artistic performances.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brandon A. Anderson points to the 9th and 9th Book and Music Galleries, which will soon have a mural as well as a stage at the rear of the building, Friday, February 11, 2022.

That’s no small feat for a one-man operation. So when Anderson came across a newsletter from the East Liberty Park Community Organization (ELPCO)asking small businesses and area residents to apply for a community grant, he jumped at the chance.

“It would help me pay for a real stage that I don’t have to build every week,” Anderson said. “Or it could help me supplement the cost to make sure these muralists are paid at a professional rate.”

Jason Stevenson, ELPCO’s co-chair, describes the organization as “a local, voluntary government” that keeps the neighborhood informed and acts as a “sounding board” for big city policy discussions. ELPCO is one of 22 such organizationsfrom Rose Park to East Bench, registered with the Salt Lake City District Attorney’s Office.

Inspired by similar city art grants, ELPCO Boost grant money has blossomed from popular 9th and 9th Street Festivalthat the community council hosts each September.

The boost grant is a way to “give back to the community,” Stevenson said, encouraging innovative projects that uplift the neighborhood, which has 4,000 households.

The grants, Stevenson said, are a way to “thank the community and really give them the opportunity to create something a little bit better on their block, in their alley, among their neighbors.”

Although grant applicants are required to reside in the ELPCO limits (between 800 South and 1700 South, and between 700 East and 1300 East), the sky is the limit when it comes to the type of proposal.

“We really didn’t want to say exactly what these projects should be because we wanted the creativity of neighbors and residents to come through and really show us where they are needed for this project,” Stevenson said.

So far, Anderson is one of six applicants for the first ELPCO boost grant, according to Stevenson.

With a maximum reward of $2,500, Stevenson said he hopes more residents and businesses will take advantage of this opportunity. The 12 members of ELPCO’s Board of Directors and selected residents will collectively decide who will receive the grants. One applicant could be awarded all of the money, or it could be split among several projects.

“We look at the quality of the submissions and the thought that went into them,” Stevenson said, “as well as the interaction with the community.”

Any East Liberty Park resident or business owner can submit an application by the February 28 deadline; and winners will be selected on April 1. The application form can be found at facebook.com/ELPCO.

Alice P. Darby