At Curiosity Coffee Bar in West Columbia, 26-year-old Allison Rogers tenderly cradled a mug of chamomile tea and talked about everyone’s accomplishments but her own.
It happened first with the barista. Coincidentally, Rogers knew him, and after delivering her tea (a service not usually offered), the barista leaned down to plant a platonic kiss atop her head of blue hair. Once he was behind the bar again Rogers promptly veered away from discussing her own work in fashion to talk about the barista’s talents as a writer and musician.
Those close to her say that’s who Rogers is ― someone so immersed in Columbia’s art scene that her tea comes with a complimentary kiss from the workers at off-beat coffee shops. The May 2020 computer science graduate thrives on making connections with local creators and devoting her time to supporting and promoting their work, according to Kati Baldwin, a freelance photographer and events planner based in Columbia.
Rogers is fairy-like; an “ethereal being” who wears whimsical homemade jewelry and second-hand clothes, according to her friends. She accessorizes with a smattering of glitter and decorative paint worn around her eyes and cheekbones, and her hair color fluctuates between shades of pink, purple and blue.
“She creates emotion with her clothes,” said Katie Rogers, a master’s student at Francis Marion University and Allison’s younger sister. “She literally wears her heart on her sleeve.”
She said Rogers is sensitive to the world around her, she's the kind of person who needs to stop and admire a sunset. It’s this sensitivity and empathy which allows her to be a skilled networker and community organizer, according to Baldwin.
Most recently, Rogers collaborated with Street Meat, a cyclist group based in Columbia, to host a fundraiser for The Cola Town Bike Collective. The benefit raised roughly $4,000 to support the bike collective’s campaign to save its location at 711 Elmwood Ave., according to Rogers. The collective is important to Columbia’s cycling community but also serves as a venue for music and events at a time when Rogers says those kinds of spaces are lacking in Columbia.
Her work in the city’s close-knit, intimate arts community is something Rogers values.
“When a space like that is created, there’s something sacred about it. It’s kind of an undefinable experience, like love,” Rogers said.
She entered the community as a first-year computer science student at the University of South Carolina in 2017, modeling for local photographers and doing runway shows for designers. As Rogers continued to work with individuals in Columbia’s fashion scene, she met Ginevra Hardin, a professional wardrobe stylist and barista at Cool Beans.
The two became friends and collaborators, eventually gaining a following large enough to develop The Beautiful Neighborhood; a thrift collective in Tapp’s Outpost that Rogers helps to run outside of her day job in information technology.
Rogers has since used The Beautiful Neighborhood to explore her passion for community building and uplifting the work of others.
For the past two years, The Beautiful Neighborhood has held “Grunge Prom” at the Cola Town Bike Collective — a community event that provides the opportunity for local artists, vendors and musicians to interact and promote their work. Rogers calls Grunge Prom the “dream-child” of The Beautiful Neighborhood. It was the first large-scale event she organized, with more than 300 people in attendance, according to Baldwin.
Rogers said bringing people together in this way is at the heart of all she does as a creative and business owner.
“To make spaces where we feel seen and held by each other ― it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s ecstasy when you’re in a space with other people who are celebrating in the way you’re celebrating art, music and bodies and the creativity coming out of your people,” Rogers said.
What sets her apart as a community organizer and supporter of the arts is that she consistently shows up for others, whether that means dancing in the front row at concerts to support small bands or reposting flyers for events happening in the community. She places an emphasis on supporting her friends and young, growing musicians and creators, according to Hardin.
Hardin said this is something Columbia needs right now. She has lived in the city on and off for seven years and has seen the music scene rise and fall over time.
“We need people that will support and come out so we can have a sound music scene,” Hardin said. “Allison is one of those people that will put in the fight, put in the work.”
When asked about Roger’s role in group settings, Ansley Jeffords, a vendor and stylist at The Beautiful Neighborhood and a fifth-year biology student at USC, described an overnight music festival she attended with Rogers where the two set up a tent together in preparation to camp. When it started to rain, it was she and Rogers who scrambled to save everyone’s things from getting wet. Jeffords said the anecdote reflects Roger’s role within the larger community.
This desire to help others ― to dash out into the rain for the people around her ― informs Rogers’ work and the way she lives her life.
“We are, at the least, resources for each other, and at the most, we are hands and arms for each other, ears and mouths. We are systems of support if we allow ourselves to be,” Rogers said. “I really want to inspire people to do that work for themselves, and for others and for their own beautiful neighborhoods.”
Editor's note: This article was written for a journalism class prior to being published in The Daily Gamecock.