One of the most beautiful things that art can do is collaborate, and the FM community happens to be the perfect host. Local artist and leader Anj Karna knew this when they decided to go all in on a new grassroots projects, Parachigo, which opened in may of this year.
Inside the retired Red River Women’s Clinic in downtown Fargo you’ll find that the space looks anything but medicalrelated. The walls are decorated with frames and canvases and yarns of art; colorful lights are strung where the wall meets the ceiling and around corners; and where there might be an opening on the wall, the surface is painted in vibrant strokes and shapes. The north-facing glass blocks shed a beautiful, prismatic light inside the main entrance in the afternoon sun. It’s warm and bright yet not overwhelming given how much is going on—the space is wholly welcoming.
The energy of this artistic oasis downtown is not by chance, this is what the founder and team hoped when they opened Parachigo—an all-ages DIY art and music venue, to say the least.
The birth of Parachigo comes from a need. Anj explained that because most music venues are 18+ for entrance and local art venues and galleries can be difficult for minors to display or sell their work in—the idea of creating an all-ages venue wasn’t even a question. What developed, and continues to develop, is again, just a response to need.
Some may say a descendant of the Red Raven, the concept of Parachigo was initially born while Anj worked at the old cafe.
“I worked at the Red Raven for almost six years, and it was like the love of my life, I really enjoyed the co-op environment,” Anj said. “When I was there, I discovered that a third space is really necessary in downtown Fargo. We have a big homeless population and we don’t have good mental health systems in place for a lot of people— most people just need a place they can sit during the daytime or the evening time, and we also don’t have a dry space in Fargo. We don’t have very many queer spaces. We have good queer spaces where they are, but the quantity is very limited.”
Anj also worked for Plants for Patients, or p4p, a local organization striving to break social stigmas against those who have experienced abortion by offering patients a handmade ceramic planter, a small plant, and a handwritten note of support to promote emotional and physical healing and to establish an anonymous connection with their community
p4p was looking for a new space and toured the emptied women’s clinic, Anj was on the tour and something clicked. While the space didn’t seem to fit p4p’s needs, they thought it might be the perfect art studio. With individual cubicles and access to a kitchen upstairs and private rooms with their own sinks inside throughout the building, Anj saw the beginnings of what Parachigo would become.
“So, it just hit the ground running,” Anj said. “We have been completely community-funded. Our paint has all been donated from people’s extras. Artist, Leslie Did That, did [our mural] for free, this installation was a donation—basically, everything’s been donated by local artists.”
From its start, Parachigo has been fueled by its community. From donated furniture to decor to personal time, the venue has been brought to life by the hands of its community, for its community. Anj’s main focus upon starting was on artists and making space available.
“I wanted affordable art studios to be a primary focus… I wanted an accessible place for people to sell their art outside of Instagram because of the algorithm. I think it can taint people’s quality of their art because they have to turn things out so quickly. Having a space, that’s not $200 to get a four-by-two shelf or something, for DIY artists downtown was important to me.”
In addition to studio space, artists, renting or not, can sell their art in the storefront. Upon walking into Parachigo, art is decorated on the walls both for aesthetics and for sale. The long hallway off the front is filled with anything you can think of to make and sell. Physical art pieces, wearable fashion pieces, buttons, magnets, stickers, jewelry, cards, and so much more. There’s even a miscellaneous area in the back, where people can bring in gently used items and materials to sell.
The other push was for a music venue to be available for affordable rent at Parachigo.
“A DIY venue was important to me. We don’t have any all ages venues in the area. Bars do all-ages stuff occasionally, but most upcoming musician [shows] are 18 through 21. Especially after COVID, it’s just a scene I didn’t want to see dwindle. So, we have $25 an hour rentals for renting the stage. That was very important to me, to make sure kids and not wealthy artists have an opportunity to put their art in Fargo,” Anj said.
Parachigo hosts about three shows a week, filled with the bands’ fans, regulars, and the college crowd for the most part. Anj said that the ambient and metal music scenes are pretty strong in the FM area, so those shows are usually fairly full. The store stays open during those events, and bands can put any merchandise they want to sell at the front.
The music stage had previously been upstairs in a smaller space, but the team has been working to move the shows to the basement—a more secluded space with extra room, practice space to be made available, and even storage space for local bands.
In addition to the renovation in the basement for the new stage, the underground spot is newly home to a community kiln. Anj hopes to do some community workshops once the kiln area is set up.
Upstairs there are a few other community amenities that have morphed and taken shape as Parachigo opened, including a dry bar and cafe, and a community room.
The dry bar and cafe are the newest to Parachigo and one that is forming day-by-day. They currently offer prepackaged, grab-and-go sandwiches (with vegetarian and vegan options), bakery items, coffee, tea, and other concession items. The sandwiches are sold by recommended donation., they invite everyone to come visit and eat!
Inside the community room, there are a variety of games, a Nintendo Wii, table space and materials for crafting, and more. Anyone can use the space and if groups are interested in utilizing its space, it’s available for rent for $25 an hour—although Anj said that the rate is on a sliding scale, if there is a cause that warrants or needs the space for a lower price than they are more than willing to work with the group on that to keep it affordable.
Currently, the community room space has a few occupants throughout the weeks, including a knitting club and a game club! Anj hopes to see even more groups utilizing the space, even groups such as alcoholics anonymous are welcome and encouraged to use that space considering the store and venue are a dry space. Contact them directly though Instagram @parachigo4 or at email@example.com to book!
That philosophy of having a sliding scale and being flexible in renting runs throughout the entirety of Parachigo, due to its initial goal—being an accessible space for all. Just like any new business venture, Anj said it was nerve-racking to start, but the response has been incredible.
“We weren’t sure if it would take off, but we hit the ground running and we had so much support. It took about a week to fill up our entire art studio with people who needed a spot,” Anj said. “It’s a necessity that’s been underrepresented in downtown Fargo. There were a lot of grassroots raffles, where people sold art and then donated the proceeds. We asked maybe two people to do raffles for us, but we had about 10 total. We mostly got a bunch of furniture donations and got a discount on some merch. It’s been it’s been really supportive, and we’re breaking even right now, which is awesome.”
It can be hard to fathom the idea of a business that profits very little, doing well. Since most transactions go right back into the facility or the vendors inside. But it’s a testament to the passion and drive that people like Anj and the rest of the Parachigo team (which isn’t a lot by the way), have for supporting their community—no questions asked, no tangible benefit taken. It’s equally a testament to the desire for a space like this to exist in the community. A space where anyone, regardless of financial ability or age, can get their art out in front of people. Where they can meet and collaborate and support other artists all the same.
The best way to find out what’s going on each week at the venue is to visit their Instagram page, @parachigo4. You can direct message the account or email firstname.lastname@example.org for any interest in studio, stage, and community room booking. Finally, you can support Parachigo in a variety of ways. There is a GoFundMe link in the account’s bio, and the goal of that fundraiser is to help secure a safety net of three months’ expenses while upgrades are made, loans are taken out, and the project centers itself around sustainability.
Visit Parachigo and peruse the shelves of the storefront, attend a show, follow along online, or tell your friends about the venue! Of course, one of the best ways to support your community’s local art is to interact with it.