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[whitespace] Cheque Republic Check

Give Globally, Buy Locally

Three Santa Cruz businesses reach out with gifts no one can refuse

By Sarah Phelan

Money Talks

SMART MONEY for Smart People." That's how Bill Anelli describes the Cheque Republic, a line of checks designed by partner Kathryn Weinstein and printed with messages like "Wage Slave" and "Warning: Economics has made me selfish."

Anelli, a part-time philosophy lecturer at De Anza college in Cupertino, says the checks are not anti-capitalist but open-ended. "They ask questions about the role of money and labor in our life."

Anelli developed the idea for the check business out of his education and his work experience--a degree in philosophy that guaranteed Anelli "plenty of work for low wages."

His first job was being a group-home counselor for $7 an hour. "It was the hardest work I've ever done, but it developed my political conscience," recalls Anneli, who currently flies the freeways between part-time jobs at community colleges.

"Full-time employment opportunities are limited at colleges, though the teaching itself is wonderful," says Anelli, noting that over the past 20 years, community colleges have replaced retiring full-timers with part timers, as part of the trend toward wage stagnation.

Acknowledging that it's hard to compete with the big boys when your marketing budget is small, Anelli says the project has also been fun.

"Lots of conservative friends as well as those on the left have found the checks provocative and funny, leading to conversations about the power and role of money in life that have gone beyond the simplistic labels like 'lefty' and 'elitist' and 'commie' and 'conservative'"--labels that obscure the complexities and ambiguities of the issue, according to Anelli.

"My checks ask people to think about how to focus on work, profit and economy in a society that has sped up our lives, leaving us with less time to spend with families and friends or on our creative sides."

(Reach the Cheque Republic at www.thechequerepublic.com or call 831.420.1870; 200 single checks are $17.)

Fair Trade Up

SINCE SEPT. 11, people have come into my store asking whether I carry anything from Muslim countries," says Keren Bloomfield, whose Artforms gallery represents the art and jewelry of 35 countries--and that's not including the music and the local artists whose work also graces her shelves. "My reply is the average worker isn't on the political decision-making front but still has to eat."

Another customer decided not to purchase an item when she discovered it was from China, "even though I told her that the artist had good pay and conditions," explains Bloomfield, whose store sits opposite Oswald's and Asian Rose, in the Courtyard Commons in downtown Santa Cruz.

Bloomfield says she also wants to promote cultural diversity, which she does by carrying art from around the world and adhering to fair-trade practices. "Some people try out different music or food, but they don't always understand the underpinning culture," says Bloomfield.

Bloomfield says she keeps her prices "fair and realistic" so the artists aren't exploited and everyone can afford their art.

"People often think fair trade is the same as free trade, but the latter makes people into even greater slaves," says Bloomfield, explaining that fair trade means making sure the company in which she's interested offers workers decent wages, conditions, benefits and educational opportunities.

"I buy from one Pakistani company, which has a school to ensure its workers' children don't end up working in a factory, and a hospital for workers and their families," says Bloomfield.

Interested in art crafted by collectives and villages that sustain communities, such as works based on reused and recycled materials, Bloomfield carries scrap metal sculptures from Zimbabwe, oil drum sculptures from Haiti, and Mexican sculptures from bolts, nuts and spark plugs. Smiles Bloomfield, "When people ask about my nationality, I say I'm an American--of the world."

(Artforms is located at 1547c Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 425.2787.)

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From the November 21-28, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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