Ma Gawa hopes to drum up support for Harrison Street relocation

? Ma Gawa Studio, located on 237 Harrison St., seeks help from the village and OPDC to find a new home.

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By JOHN YOO

The village board had an unexpected visit from Ma Gawa African Drum Studio during the last board meeting. Teachers and students gave a brief drumming performance and updated board members on their current situation.

Ma Gawa African Drum Studio, located at 237 Harrison St., is hoping to relocate after the termination of their 3-month lease.

"We subleased the space from the wood store next door and the lease ends in July," said Joshua Bernall, the co-owner of the studio. "We were hoping to renew the lease but the landlord has other plans for the space, which is absolutely fine with us."

Bernall said the studio is asking for help from the village and Oak Park Development Corporation in finding a suitable space in Oak Park as well as qualifying for a business development loan.

"The main thing right now is to make the village aware of our circumstances," Bernall said. "The village, in conjunction with Oak Park Development Corp., makes loans to business owners who are relocating."

Bernall said the current spot is excellent for the studio since the "district, being an art district, already comes with a built-in customer base."

He added the studio is looking for a similar spot but installing sound proof walls in a new spot will be costly.

John Eckenroad, executive director of Oak Park Development Corp., said there are roughly five spots in Oak Park that could be suitable for the studio.

"The sound issue is a big thing, and we are currently examining these spots to see if they are appropriate," he said.

He said the details of a loan will be discussed after a proper spot has been located and then reviewed by the village for approval.

"One of our main objectives is to retain businesses in Oak Park," Eckenroad said. "I heard them play, and it's definitely worth having them around."

Ma Gawa Studio offers five drum circles and numerous dance lessons every week, welcoming students of varying ages. In addition, the studio specializes in making drums with customized features and design.

Bernall said he is happy with the diversity of customers that visit the studio.

"We get all kinds of customers from different ethnicities," he said. "Our ultimate goal is not just to represent African culture but to represent and explore all the cultures."

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