Local artists launch center for creatives
Sarah “Fancy” Lanier-Duncan and Emmanuel “Envy” Duncan are two local artists and entrepreneurs on the move. Known musically as hip hop duo iLLism, the two recently expanded their horizons by launching a creative space for the community.
The married couple of 10 years recently launched The Legacy Building located in South Minneapolis. They also own CRWN Media and a record label called The CRWN, LLC.
They explained the meaning behind the business name(s): “CRWN is an acronym for Creatives ReWriting Narratives,” said Emmanuel Duncan. Sarah Lanier-Duncan added, “Legacy building just comes from just building your legacy, and that’s a really important part—Black people need something to hand down.”
She continued, “Our company CRWN Media, operates out of it [The Legacy Building], and then eventually the record label, The CRWN, will be operating out of it, too.” They are signed to their own record label.
The Legacy Building was established in December 2021. Emmanuel said, “We’re still building our team.”
“We’re building our advisory board,” added Sarah.
“Right now,” she continued, “we have our LLC with The CRWN; we hope to turn it into a nonprofit so that when we have artists who are coming in, we have grants, and we have money that can be utilized.”
Important to note, she added: “We have a GoFundMe set up right now. We have mostly family and friends giving to it. We are accepting monetary donations. We even have a list of things that we still need to get this space up and moving.”
The Legacy Building resides in the Longfellow neighborhood. “There’s just so much around here, like the Minnehaha Falls. We’re light rail accessible,” said Emmanuel.
They were inspired to launch The Legacy Building due to their plights as artists. The couple started their group iLLism in 2015 and have created five albums with more music planned for the near future.
Emmanuel said, “We always felt like we had to do a lot by ourselves, and so I think that kind of sharpened our skills.” Sarah elaborated: “And just the experience of feeling like you need someone who looks like you who understands what it is you’re trying to contribute to the culture.” They want to help underserved people in their community. “This is my hood,” Sarah said.
Launching a business is an extensive process. The duo said tears and hard work powered their journey. They moved almost every piece of furniture into the space with their personal vehicle.
“There’s different steps,” said Sarah. “You have to get your LLC, you have to have your articles of organization—write out a budget and a business plan.”
Emmanuel said, “For us being musicians, a lot of times you can’t just only be the musician, you’ve got to be a businessman or businesswoman. That’s where we’re at, just maximize outside of music. Sometimes you have to take off your artist hat and be of service.”
Sarah added, “We learned very early on in our music career that if you can be a blessing to somebody you just should. When you give, you get in return.”
There’s an important mission and purpose behind their business. “The mission is to serve, and the purpose is to elevate. It’s creatives rewriting narratives, and I feel like we are all the authors and have the ability to walk people through the doors they need to walk through,” explained Sarah.
Customers can utilize the welcoming and cozy Legacy building in a variety of ways. There’s a vocal recording studio, a spacious rehearsal space, photo/video studio space, and a designated storefront area that’ll host pop-up shops.
The unique space is aimed at serving the “local creative community” in Minneapolis. The owners plan on opening during Juneteenth weekend, said Sarah. They’ll also have activities leading up to the grand opening.
Although running a business is challenging, there are rewarding aspects such as “getting to know people, giving back,” and “helping people, like taking an idea and bringing it to life,” Sarah and Emmanuel said.
They shared advice for youth and upcoming entrepreneurs: “Don’t underestimate yourself. A lot of people will tell you what is possible and what’s not possible. Just believe in yourself.”
The Legacy Building is located at 4024 E. 46th Street in South Minneapolis. The ribbon-cutting is on Friday, June 17 at 6 pm. For more info, visit Facebook/ILLism, www.illismmusic.com or www.gofundme.com/f/creativespaceownedbyblackcouple.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.