Party Art Community gives gifts of activism and fun

Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

Before Destinie Escobedo opened Party Art Community in 2016, she said she had started “a thousand” different creative business ventures. In college, she created a fashion label named NJAL (Not Just Another Label) with a sewing room in her garage. She dabbled in photography, graphic design and web design and even started a vintage clothing shop. Party Art Community, she said, is the culmination of everything she has done.

Party Art Community is a party decor and stationery store focusing on “socially conscious” goods and workshops.

For Escobedo, being socially conscious means that her products have a progressive feminist spin. Near the register are postcards featuring an image of rapper Cardi B denouncing the patriarchy. She also ensures that the store is environmentally friendly by using biodegradable balloons and replacing plastic wrap with paper wrap. She said in March that she would donate 10 percent of the store’s profit to The Ladybug’s Movement, which makes hygiene kits for nonprofits like the Downtown Women’s Center.

Shelves of color-coordinated paper plates, balloons and other decorations loop around the shop. A rainbow paper flower sculpture by Highland Park artist Carsen LaBella dominates the wall behind the register. With its bright pop-art colors and glitter, the store looks like a party.

Escobedo describes her style as “cedgy,” or “cute” plus “edgy”: many of the store’s products have political undertones.

“It’s like ‘burn the patriarchy’ but with a smile on your face,” Escobedo said. “It’s cute, but dagger words.”

Party Art Community, Escobedo said, started as many businesses do: out of necessity. Before her destination wedding in Greece in 2016, Escobedo said she wanted to give her guests party favor bags for the long plane ride. Looking online, she said she could not find any bags that were unisex, as all the designs skewed either too feminine or too masculine. Instead, Escobedo designed her own party bags and put them on Etsy. As of April 13, her Etsy shop has 12,729 total sales across all of her products.

Escobedo originally made all her products in the cramped one-bedroom apartment she shared with her partner. She said the bedroom was a mess, overflowing with her computer, printer, Cricut cutting machine, fabric and other supplies. She took over the living room six months later — her partner sold the couch to give her more room. She opened the physical store in October 2019.

Escobedo said that one of the store’s most popular items is boob gift wrap designed by Natilee Luna of Hooray All Day. Escobedo said that 99 percent of items in the storefront are sourced from other women-owned businesses — a fact Luna said she loves.

Before opening Party Art Community, Escobedo and her friend Barbara Isaac founded the brand Woke Brown Fem in 2017. It focused on helping people transition from what Isaac described as “baby woke” to “woke” using blog posts and products like tote bags and patches that emphasize activism, feminism and racial equality. At the same time they were brainstorming ideas for Woke Brown Fem, Isaac said, they were also envisioning Party Art Community.

Escobedo said she grew up in Southgate and her dad’s family used to live in Highland Park until they were pushed out due to gentrification. She said her store is her way of bringing her family back to the area where they once lived, but she is aware that her party supply store is also changing the landscape of the neighborhood.

Escobedo said she wants her store to support the Eagle Rock and Highland Park communities. She said her store is open to anyone, such as an online poetry class that needs a free meeting space. The store features the work of local artists and provides a place for them to sell their work. She said she ensures that her workshops are always affordable, if not free.

“Anyone who wants to be creative should have access to it,” Escobedo said. “It shouldn’t be this thing where it’s not affordable.”

Luisa Pelipetz was one of Party Art Community’s first employees and started out stamping and ironing bags. Pelipetz said she has seen the store grow to reflect Escobedo herself.

“[Party Art Community] is Destinie’s love letter to humanity and her manifesto in the belief of the healing power of celebration and creativity,” Pelipetz said via email.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Escobedo had to temporarily close her physical shop in March. Her online store is still open, and while people may not be holding parties, she sells other items such as encouragement cards and gift cards. She announced on Instagram April 5 that she will be sewing and selling fabric face masks, in the same bright colors as her shop’s walls, online. For every mask purchased, she will send one to a clinic in need. Her first 15 masks went to a clinic in Massachusetts.

For now, Party Art Community has returned to its roots as an online shop run from Escobedo’s home. For Pelipetz, the physical storefront is an important part of the store’s mission.

“This time we’re in now, of quarantine, brings into painful clarity how important having spaces like [this] are for our health and well being. We need each other, we are each other’s medicine,” Pelipetz said via email. “Yes, a space that sells rainbow garlands and confetti is also revolutionary. Celebration, joy and genuinely caring about things is radical.”