The eclectic, vibrant Eau Gallie Arts District (EGAD) recently welcomed Keenun Barley as its new executive director of EGAD Main Street. The Southern Virginia native relocated her family to the Space Coast in 2014 and immediately immersed herself in the local art, music, and plant-based food scene. Last year, amidst the pandemic, Keenun and business partner Kali Bernardo opened their own indie shop in EGAD called Co/Create, a highly curated collection of home goods, art, and more from 32 Florida artisans. Keenun is also the co-organizer of FLEAGAD Market and Space Coast Music Festival, as well as Space Coast Fresh Fest, a vegan festival. Keenun is the founder of Plant-Based Brevard and on the Board of Directors for Warriors 4 Kids.

Keenun admits that sleep is low on her list of priorities, starting every day at 4:30 am without an alarm clock and winding into the late hours of the evening, pouring her heart and soul into every item on her long lists of tasks. Right now, she is focusing on her new leadership role.

I was able to slot into her busy schedule at Co/Create where we discussed her plans for EGAD Main Street over a refreshing cup of local booch (aka kombucha) served on tap by Farm Boy Kombucha.

Q: Where did your interest in EGAD come from?

A: Our youngest [daughter] is an artist and she needed art supplies, so I googled it and Ralph’s Art Supply came up in my search. It was my first time [visiting] EGAD. We had a great conversation with Ralph, got to play with his cat and her kittens, and then took a walk through the neighborhood. EGAD won me over right off the bat. This is where I’m supposed to be.

Q: What do you love most about EGAD?

A: The people, without a doubt. It’s hard to explain how amazing it feels to be surrounded by people who support your ideas and never accuse you of thinking “too big.” It’s so fun and freeing! EGAD is filled with people working together to bring everyone else’s visions to fruition. It’s such a cool community.

Q: How has the pandemic impacted EGAD businesses?

A: EGAD lost one business because of COVID-19. Personally, I paid rent starting in January expecting to be open in three months, but actually opened on October 1, 2020. I had to eat that cost. Many of the businesses did a great job of adapting to the circumstances. Intracoastal Brewing Company produced their own hand sanitizer and created a drive-through for food and beer. FM Pizza added lunch shifts to make up for the limited occupancy at dinner. The Standard Collective closed for a few weeks and started producing custom masks. The EGAD Main Street program was able to secure some funds and used it to create maps of all businesses, storefront window signs that read “shop small” and provided masks to all businesses.

Q: What are your short term and long term goals as the new executive director?

A: After reading several years’ worth of the minutes from EGAD Main Street and city council meetings, and researching similar main streets, I think we have to start from scratch and go back to fully focusing on the four pillars of the main street organization. We need to come together. We need to do the work. I plan to be more one-on-one with each merchant. We need a working board, not just board members with titles. I want to work on building our membership and we need to do lots of fundraising. I definitely want a stronger social media presence and I’m ready to get started on all of this. One immediate goal would be to landscape Highland and Eau Gallie so that it looks fresh, safe, and inviting. I’d like to increase activity at the square and I’d like to see more events happening in the area. We currently have the Space Coast Music Fest, FLEAGAD, Space Coast Pride Fest, Rocky Water Brew Fest, and Whiskey in the District. I’d like to add some official holiday events and I want event planners to know that we’re open to having events here.

Q: Tell me about Co/Create.

A: Co/Create has 32 local “makers” – mostly from Brevard, one from Orlando and [one from] Miami. It’s a launch pad for local businesses. Fun workshops are held here: candle making, smudge sticks, bath scrubs, makeup class, wine tasting. We will start offering plant-based grab ‘n go, soups, and fresh juices, hopefully by March/April.

Q: Anything you'd like to tell us to know?

A: EGAD Main Street is a nonprofit and we need paying members, active members, and donations. I want to leave this community more connected and community oriented. Communication is key in all relationships.