CERF+ Spotlights SoHarlem’s Janet Rodriguez A Trailblazing Black Entrepreneur Rebuilding Harlem’s Arts Industry

February 22, 2022

In honor of Black History Month, CERF+ – an award-winning non-profit devoted to supporting artists working in craft disciplines with financial relief, advocacy, and education programs – is shining a spotlight on the trailblazing entrepreneur and founder of SoHarlem, Janet Rodriguez.

With a vision rooted in fostering opportunities for creative entrepreneurs, Rodriguez maintains decades of experience in philanthropic leadership and her own entrepreneurial pursuits.

In 2011, to combat the adverse effects of gentrification on the Harlem community, Rodriguez founded SoHarlem, a non-profit organization focused on rebuilding the arts industry in Harlem by providing opportunities for creative entrepreneurs of color.

Her efforts have turned a once desolate Manhattanville Factory District into a vibrant center, allowing artists to utilize its affordable workspaces and launch their businesses there while providing free mentoring and training to unemployed and underemployed residents.

Prior, she opened Straight Out of Harlem, where she promoted and sold the work of hundreds of artists who created functional and wearable art. 

During her time as Vice President of JPMorgan Chase Global Philanthropy Group, Rodriguez played a pivotal role in securing funding to create CERF+’s Studio Protector – a critical toolkit regularly used to protect the health and safety of artists, their studios, and their businesses in the wake of unprecedented emergencies.

“In helping create CERF’s Studio Protector kit, Rodriguez has, in turn, helped thousands of artists in their biggest time of need,” comments Cornelia Carey, Executive Director of CERF+, “We are forever grateful for her continued commitment to building community, investing in resilience and bolstering the creative economy.” 

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Photo credit: 1) SoHarlem founder, Janet Rodriguez. 2) Training Class at SoHarlem. Photo courtesy of SoHarlem.

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