Benjamin Cocco loved to draw, play music and build items from his imagination. When his life was cut short at the age of 12 in a bike-car accident, his parents knew the best way to keep his memory alive.
“Benjamin was just so much fun, and he was so artistic. All he ever did was make things,” said his mother, Mary Cocco. “He was extremely creative, and we just know there are a lot of other children out there who are extremely creative, too, or who are but just don’t know that.”
Ben’s Jammin’ Art Project was born. For nearly the past four years, Mary and John Cocco have been getting into the Bethlehem community and, through their nonprofit organization, introducing the arts to the young and old. Now, with a new brick-and-mortar home, they’re hoping to reach more people than ever.
Their new venture is at 1569 New Scotland Road, in the same building as Toll Gate Ice Cream. In addition to a space in which art classes of all sorts can be held, the front of the store is now home to Ben’s Jammin’ Treasures.
The Coccos have created the space to fill with the works of local artisans, and when it’s up and running, you’ll be able to find jewelry, pottery, stained glass, wooden items, soaps, candles and recycled and refurnished house wares of all types. It’s an eclectic mix – there’s even a florist who does mixed plant arrangements, terrariums and silks. The Treasures shop will help finance the Art Project arm of the organization.
It’s a big step for Ben’s Jammin’ Art Project. The space will let the Coccos more easily hold classes that focus on painting, drawing, sewing, clay, music – just about any medium imaginable. Right now, the program is probably best known from a regular presence at the Delmar Farmers Market, where every Saturday they set up shop to work on arts and crafts projects with kids.
“Our slogan is ‘Unlock the creative in you,’” said Mary Cocco. “We really do want people to know that they probably have more creativity than they think.”
Right now, Ben’s Jammin’ Treasures is under a soft opening. You can visit from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Coccos are still looking for vendors to fill the rest of the shelves there. They’ll then look to get Ben’s Jammin’ Art Project settled into its physical space.
Being a nonprofit, the Art Project not only benefits the community, but relies on it. Monetary donations or art supplies are always welcome, as is the time of volunteers who can teach any form of art or music. Exactly what people want and can provide will set the agenda.
“I feel like we are the facilitators, and Ben’s Jammin’ Art Project will be what the community makes it,” Mary Cocco said. “The community comes in and shows us what they want and what they need.”
For more information, visit bensjamminartproject.org.