Food for the Soul – MOKA Art Gallery

The Entrepreneur
Charlotte Ka, a resident of the Hill district, holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University, a Master of Fine Arts Degree from Maryland Institute College of Art, and a Master of Science Degree from Bank Street/ Parsons. Ms. Ka has an extensive background in artistic production and education which includes 22 years of teaching art in the New York City public school system. She was also the co-owner of Jade Gallery in Oakland, and has exhibited her art extensively and curated exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Awards she has received for her art include the New York Foundation of the Arts Gregory Millard Award in painting and the Coca Cola National Fellows.

Charlotte's passion for art is not limited to her artistic production. She understands that art can improve people lives, especially in struggling communities by acting as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization. By providing a unique forum to people to gather, interact, and share their views on art objects, an art gallery can spread culture and reinforce the sense of collectiveness and pride in a community. An art gallery provides the much needed food for the soul for all, and Ms. Ka decided that the best way to accomplish this vision was to open a contemporary art gallery in the heart of the Hill district.

Challenges and Obstacles faced
To start an art gallery is not easy. A central location with adequate space for art exhibition is needed. So, one of the main challenges was to identify and secure a building for the art gallery. Ms. Ka found the right building on Centre Ave, the main avenue in the Hill District. The building was in bad shape, however, and a thorough renovation and new additions were necessary. Ms. Ka was able to successfully start the building renovation and currently the renovation is near completion.

SBDC assistance
Urban Innovation 21, a non-profit organization which promotes and supports entrepreneurship in the Hill District by, among other activities, organizing annual business plan contests open only to Hill District residents, referred Ms. Ka to Duquesne SBDC. Ms. Ka connected with an experienced SBDC consultant working in the Hill District, and requested assistance for her business plan. During several sessions, a sound business plan was drafted. Ms. Ka submitted her business plan and participated in the 2015 Hill District Business Plan competition. Her plan was selected as the second best and received an award of $2,500. The business plan was also used by Ms. Ka to apply for subsequent grant and loans applications. As a result of these efforts, more funding for her art gallery was obtained from Ms. Ka savings, loans, and grants that amounted a total of $242,000.

Ms. Ka says the following about the assistance received: “Dear [SBDC Consultant]: I will be forever indebted to you for your continuous support in helping us to complete the MOKA Art Gallery project. Your assistance has always been timely, invaluable and necessary. You have assisted in the revision of a shortened business plan by extracting the most pertinent items into a shortened , cohesive version, more suitable for securing loans and grants.”

Impact and Results
Moka Art gallery is set to complete the renovation of the bulding in February 2016 and grand opening will be in May 2016. Ms. Ka keeps working to obtain more funds for the Art Gallery. So far, Ms. Ka’s company has created 2 jobs and MOKA Art Gallery will start full operations in May 2016.