Athena Robles and Anna Stein’s Free Store – A Priceless Experience


Post by Cate Fallon

Free Store, downtown Manhattan near Wall Street. Note the log cabin paneling--perfect for this old fashioned barter project. All photos in this post by Cate Fallon
Free Store, downtown Manhattan near Wall Street. Note the log cabin paneling–perfect for this old fashioned barter project. All photos in this post by Cate Fallon

Athena Robles and Anna Stein (aka Double A Projects) have created a performance / environmental sculpture walk-through free store – something of a cultural pop-shop meets art installation of free trade just blocks away from Wall Street in lower Manhattan.

Free Store
Fits in seamlessly with its neighbors.

Free Store
Merch on the floor and walls of the Free Store

Like a cross between a secondhand shop and a gallery space for odd lots, the store is full of eye-catching and memory-jogging artifacts – a natural history museum of cultural artifacts – that were for the touching and the taking.

Free Store
No credit cards required

Setting up shop in a small storefront space, replete with credit card logos on the door, this venture includes an assortment of donations from friends and fellow artists — and its all for free.  Robles talked about the  idea and about getting the original collection together and how the entire project had taken on an even greater meaning being near the center of commerce in this most economically challenging time.

Free Store
I’m free

She explained that unlike a barter system where an object is offered, valued and traded for something else, all items in their store were entirely free — no strings attached. The Free Store will accept donations of items such as books and clothing, offer these items for the taking, and will stock a few items produced in-house by the artists.

Free Store
I’m free, too.

They would like to see their idea catch on in other regions of the country and around the world. To that end they have developed their own form of currency – a One World Currency.

Free Store
Athena Robles holding up a Free Store World Bill

They plan to distribute Free Store World Bills, as a global currency that potentially could be used at any free store in the Global Free Store chain. Contributors to Free Store will receive World Bills for goods and services donated to the store. They can then use these bills to trade with other participants or in future.

How can they afford to do this? Of course it’s not free — they have partial sponsorship from The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and The September 11th Fund. Plenty of programming with this project–including Sunday afternoon In House Curator Events (Sundays 2-5 pm) with Edwin Ramoran, director of exhibitions and programs at Aljira Center for Contemporary Art. Get a 15-min. consultation with Ramoran on your project or proposal. To sign up, email

Free Store
Rope, wood scraps, tin cans? Somebody will love it.

Free Store
Hours and Location
Free Store
99 Nassau Street, New York, NY (between Fulton and Ann Streets).
February 19 to March 22, 2009
Hours – Thursday–Saturday, 12–7PM; Sunday 12–5PM and by appointment. email
Subway – 4, 5, 6, J, M, Z to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall or Fulton/Broadway-Nassau Street;
or A, C, 2, 3 to Broadway-Nassau Street.


anna stein, athena robles, cate fallon, free store



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