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The Free Store in Nassau Street, Manhattan, created by artists Athena Robles and Anna Stein has been creating a stir. It was inspired by a liberal hippie initiative from 1967, the Diggers Free Store which operated under the slogan "Don't Waste Give To The Diggers". This time Robles and Stein have created their own Free Store just a few from Wall Street in New York's financial district.

Free Store invite, by Athena Robles and Anna Stein, 2009

The Free Store in Nassau Street, Manhattan, created by artists Athena Robles and Anna Stein has been creating a stir. It was inspired by a liberal hippie initiative from 1967, the Diggers Free Store which operated under the slogan "Don't Waste Give To The Diggers". This time Robles and Stein have created their own Free Store just a few from Wall Street in New York's financial district.

The idea is simple. Everything in the store is free. You're encouraged to donate something too, of course. In return for your purchase you're issued with a receipt that declares no money has changed hands.

“Alternative and generous systems such as bartering have long been used in times of financial hardship,” say Robles and Stein. “Artists, in particular, are familiar with having to be creative to make ends meet and have functioned on generous systems, especially artist-to-artist. Free Store aims to broaden this circle of trust and exchange by including the general public.”

From an economic perspective, it appears a facile response to crisis.  Are the artists seriously saying that we should abandon materialist ideas of value? As art though, it's a playful, optimistic gesture, questioning what we place our trust and value in, especially given the context. With all the vacant store-frontage in our High Streets, even with Wellworths, there's so much potential to play/do something productive in the dead space in middle of our cities.

Any nominations for best used empty shop?

Photo: Free Store invite, by Athena Robles and Anna Stein, 2009

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