Blacc Vanilla’s Community Foundation Joins Open Studios with Public Art Event

Posted in Creative Class | Last Updated September 29, 2018

Black Vanilla Community Foundation Volunteers


Blacc Vanilla Community Foundation (BVCF) joins with the September 29th and 30th Newburgh Open Studios tour and Newburgh Last Saturdays in a Public Art event: Hours 7:oo a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The newly formed  BVCF foundation’s special community public art event will be held one day only on Saturday starting at noon, September 29th  when the public artwork will be created just outside of Blacc Vanilla Café. 

On the following day, artwork featured inside the cafe will continue to be shown as a part of Open Studios two-day event.


Live Painting of the crosswalks at the intersection where Blacc Vanilla’s cafe is located is open to the community.  Designs will be created by students from Excelsior Academy at NFA. It will be all stenciled out so everyone can paint by number. The goal is to promote creativity in young people and bring attention to crosswalks so that drivers have a reminder to slow down.

100 Bikes for 100 Children

In addition to activities like the painting of the crosswalks on South and North Miller Streets, music, outdoor karaoke, BBQ, face painting and henna tattoos will also be featured.

The event also kicks off the celebration the donation of 100 bikes to 100 hundred children. The donation includes a bike helmet, light, lock and a safety map created by Scenic Hudson featuring Newburgh landmarks within biking distance at safe spots around the city. Blacc Vanilla will be featuring the donation of several bikes at a time at various headliner events throughout the year, including Saturday’s event when twelve bikes will find new homes!

Blacc Vanilla Café Celebrated 1-year Anniversary by announcing a new Community Foundation

Not many café’s celebrate their one-year anniversary by establishing a not-for-profit community foundation. But Blacc Vanilla Café, like the community it serves, is unlike any other.

South Street Entrepreneurs

For Melanie Collins and Jarrod Lang, owners and co-founders of Blacc Vanilla Café, the dream of owning a business on South Street began a long time ago.  Collins recalled Lang mentioning the idea on their first date.

“We were coming down South Street and he said to me, I’m going to buy that building, this building. And I said, ‘no we’re not,’” Collins laughed at the memory. “We bought the building. Jarrod grew up right here on North Miller…There hasn’t been a business here in over 15, 20 years, so it was important to him that he put something here that was going to be positive, and start to bring the community back to a lot of the good memories that he had as a kid.”

The couple had high hopes for the café. It took over four years in the making, but eventually the duo settled on a name and a vision for the business: to create a place that would embrace the diversity of Newburgh, and would bring different types of people together as one community. Part of that vision entailed establishing a cafe away from the growing hub of businesses on Liberty Street.

“Right now, Liberty Street is like all the buzz, and everybody wants to open a business on Liberty Street. We want to be as far away from Liberty Street as possible, and encourage other people: ‘what neighborhood are you from?’ … It’s a big huge beautiful city, grab a corner!” said Collins.

Café That Feels Like Home

Since its opening in the fall of 2017, Blacc Vanilla Café has developed a reputation as the place where “everybody smiles here.” It’s chic black and white interior featuring colorful paintings of local and nationally recognized musicians creates a fun atmosphere that, paired with friendly staff, coffee, and yummy food, creates an overall atmosphere where anyone and everyone can feel at home.

“You feel like you’re walking into your mom’s living room, or your best friend’s house. And I think that just feels good to people,” said Collins. She credits that welcoming atmosphere to their ongoing success as a café, as well as the café’s promotion of programs that benefit the community such as the Star Program, which allows customers to sponsor coffee or food for people who can’t afford it.

“Everyone is treated the same,” said Collins. “If you’re looking for a feel-good type of place, it’s worth stepping outside of your comfort zone and try something new.”

Creating a Social Enterprise

As of September 11, 2018, Collins and Lang officially announced the launch of the Blacc Vanilla Community Foundation (BVCF), a not-for-profit social enterprise that will help Newburgh residents develop valuable skills and job training through a number of programs that promote economic self-sufficiency. Some of these skills include training in the culinary arts, hospitality, customer service, health care, information technology, construction, and commercial driver’s license, to name a few.

“We want to build a sense of hope and self-worth,” explained Lang. “BVCF offers skills and job training programs, social support, and connections with potential employers as a basis of building and rebuilding connection between business and community.”


Collins and Lang are far from establishing this social enterprise alone, partnering with and receiving the support of multiple Newburgh business owners, residents, organizations, and local politicians. Their programs include partnerships with SHRED, a foundation that uses skateboarding and snowboarding culture to provide life and career opportunities, RUPCO Construction, Choice Films Inc. and Umbra Studios. In fact, the community foundation already tested its first pilot program this past summer, training 12 students in its “Below the Line Bootcamp.” With the help of New York City-based film and theater company Choice Films, students trained with film crews at Umbra Studios. The program’s success is already evident: all of the boot camp graduates have since either been hired or accepted a paid internships in the film industry. The boot camp’s incredible success, like that of Blacc Vanilla Café, creates a hopeful energy that is contagious.


“Ever since I met Jarrod and Melanie and found out about the Blacc Vanilla café, it’s been magical,” said Ed Lawson, one of BVCF’s founding members, at the press conference announcing the creation of the foundation. “Everything that you see now doesn’t really happen in real life. You don’t open up a café on the corner of North Miller and South Street and a year later have this kind of turn out. You don’t engage with major organizations like RUPCO and Scenic Hudson and Choice Films and Umbra Stages and do amazing things in a year. It doesn’t happen. But here, magic happens.”

Saturday the 29th at Blacc Vanillas Open Studio Public Art Event will feature a dj

DJ gets ready to turn it up!


Magic for the city of Newburgh

With the help of their many partnerships and supporters, BVCF’s proposed programs and training will continue to create that magic for the city of Newburgh. In creating the community foundation, the couple has tapped into one of the city’s strongest attributes: a dedicated community of individuals, businesses and organizations that want to see Newburgh succeed.

“Everything exciting that is happening here is only as strong as the community it is happening in. Therefore we need you, we need the community…we need as much of you to be a part of this in order for it to be a success,” said Tony Glazer, one of the managing partners of Choice Films Inc.

Already the community has stepped up, and BVCF has developed a lofty list of projects and programs. These include Blacc Vanilla Roasters, Blacc Vanilla Studios’ commission-free art gallery, Newburgh MBK youth police initiative, BVCF YouthBuild program, a BVCF State of Our City podcast, and many other creative courses and internships for young adults.

Whether Newburgh’s youth want to develop their own business, learn a trade, or prepare to go off to college, the Blacc Vanilla Community Foundation aims to provide the valuable life skills that will help them achieve those goals. All of this, while also striving to make Newburgh a more desirable place to both live and work.

“Our vision is to transform Newburgh into a thriving hub of craft, culture, community and coffee. The programs we’re unveiling today are a big step toward bringing that vision to fruition,” said Collins.

Blacc Vanilla is open Tuesday through Sunday from 7:00am to 5:00pm. They are closed Mondays. You can view more details about their coffee, upcoming events and the community foundation here.