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Remembering business owner Amy Osowski and her impact on the Mesa arts scene

As 2023 comes to a close, we're remembering several Arizonans you may never have heard of who passed away this year.

We’ll hear about Amy Osowski, a Mesa resident who owned Lulubell Toy Bodega. But as her friend and fellow community activist David Crummey explains, Osowski did so much more than run a Japanese collectibles store.

The Show spoke with Crummey.

We had a little gathering and people were talking about the first time she met, and I'm like, “I don't know. I feel like I've always known her, but I know I haven't.”

I met Amy in her store on Main Street in downtown Mesa. It was Lulu Bell Toy Bodega, which was part Japanese Sofubi toy store, part art gallery and part community center. And it's was one of those places where everyone seemed to hang out a little too long for a regular retail store.

Amy was always ready to have a conversation about increasing arts; the arts community; seeing color on Main Street and Mesa (Drive); and trying to hold up and amplify local artists. Amy was always in the community and talking to local artists, whether to show their work in her store or to connect them with opportunities advocating with the Mesa Art Center, the city of Mesa, local nonprofits, or downtown Mesa organizations to create opportunities not just for “big name artists” or artists that we've all heard of, but trying to lift up artists that she had met either through graffiti or the tattoo convention world that wanted to get out and do more things or do public art, having classes, talking about becoming a working artist.

And she was one of the lead provocateurs in downtown Mesa and trying to find paid opportunities for artists and really, really encouraging emerging artists to apply for those opportunities and in a lot of cases, get their first mural commission. And just trying to work with artists from pretty much every standing. And being very loud when a city commission went to a out-of-state artist. How do we keep that money local? How do we support the artists that are here — and artists are wonderful wherever they live, but it's really great to have to be able to support artists in Mesa so they can continue to live in Mesa and not have to move away.

Amy was instrumental in helping do outreach for the Mesa arts-based lofts when we were positioning the city to help fund and support the development of affordable artist living and trying to get to not just the “fine artists,” but where do we find musicians and graffiti artists and people that are doing weird stuff that wouldn't show up in the main place.

And tattoo artists. Amy was a big supporter of tattoo artists as an art form, graffiti as an art form. And then of course her business in Sofubi, the Japanese vinyl toy collecting, which is its own world.

And then just, Amy was a great person to talk to, an incredible business owner, but community was at her heart. The outpouring of love and support that has happened after learning about her tragic passing has been incredible. And a reminder of the paths and the worlds that she stepped in between to cross and be both a part of and a connector between the graffiti scene and DJs and tattoo artists and gardeners and bicycle advocates and fine artists and everything else.

And she just stepped effortlessly between every single art world of any medium and community and just wanted a better world and a better Mesa for humans — especially artists, especially people doing cool stuff — to be successful and succeed.

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Amber Victoria Singer is a producer for KJZZ's The Show. Singer is a graduate of the Water Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.