“If we weren’t tortured, we wouldn’t be artists”
… this statement just came to me recently. Pairing it with at all the boldest cliches, it’s easy to say that change is a HARD, inevitable and, dare I say, a good thing?
All things change. The more they change the more they tend to remain the same…. “to every thing there is a season”… yet we still remain terrified of the unknown. Safe in our comfort zones, I am once again reminded that pushing the envelope never comes without the growing pains of life. And while nobody really WANTS to grow up, there is something awfully seductive about feeling confident, competent and on top of your game.
Recently, I have made one of the most difficult decisions in my artist career; to shut down a physical portion of a very large, tangible project I have been working on for years. The illustrious “Vibe Tribe” will no longer be operating as an art studio on 55th and Troost. At this point, It is something that I sadly, must let go.
WHY, the people ask me with a hope in their wide eyes of salvation, “WHY would you do such a thing to such a positive institution?” And the answer to that is multi-faceted, to say the least….
For perspective: Pre-Vibe Tribe, a bunch of local artists worked a brief stint with a rascally collective arts troupe The Wonderful Travels of Mr. 9 Starring community members: Brian Maloney (Mr 9 himself), Madame Magic, Chumsey the Clown, Chad Mustard, Ziggy the Hoop Dancer, Surka Noelle, Harmony Lovellution and more, we donned an incredible office space just above the Coffee Wonk on 35 and Broadway. Crumbling almost as fast as we combined forces, the collective arts space/workshop/recording studio/sewing studio/flop-house disintegrated before it could ever grow roots. It ended tragically, and from it bore Dumptruck Butterlips and the VibeTribe of KC, amongst other projects. We hit the ground running!
Officially deeming ourselves the “Vibe Tribe” in 2011, we gained momentum after our first large-scale event, Kanrocksas, at the KS Speedway. I made a brick-ton of business cards, and it felt legit. And we had FUN! Performing at all kinds of regional music festivals (Wakarusa) and local Kansas City events, we were ravers, we were hippies, we were rockstars, and we were loving it.
In October of 2012, we took over 5504 Troost in the heart of Kansas City. Our landlord, a huge supporter of the arts and Vibe Tribe, asked me what I needed to take a step forward with this project. Recalling past performance spaces (Mr 9, Yosh’s Loft, Emerald City‘s Artmosphere and Ubuntu being of the most influential), I requested a SPACE, in which to store all this STUFF we were accumulating, and to have meetings and workshops and classes. We needed a center of operations, a home base, a club-house, and like magic the Vibe Tribe came to life on Troost. It was glorious in concept, but to be honest, it wasn’t all pretty.
The building needed work, and we ourselves needed defining. Many meetings and work days surpassed before we officially opened for business in the Spring of 2013, hosting dance and flow arts classes, parties, events, workshops and other means of productive entertainment. The official purpose of the Vibe Tribe was to always be raising the vibration, individually and collectively. To always be bettering ourselves through creative mediums, be it in music, dance, costuming, set design or other visual arts. Being an artist is a life style, and working together collectively should synergistically raise us all to be the best we can be. Sue me, I’m an optimist; I know I already lost half of you.
The intention of the Vibe Tribe was also to be all inclusive, radical self sustainability and radically creativity. To build the bridge across Troost is an important concept to me. We ran ourselves as donation based, encouraging people to “get involved” in whatever way they saw fit. Show up and donate $5 at yoga. If you can’t afford to pay, come sweep the floors before, or take a stack of fliers and pass them out on your block. Whatever you contribution is, own it. Nobody was to be turned away for lack of funds, and that I was very adamant about.
As the leader of this communal project, I wore (too) many hats, promoting, producing, organizing, as well as keeping up with the basic cleaning, working the door at events, all the while teaching and performing weekly, all on top of my “real” jobs (yes, I’m used to being spread thin).
Giving credit where credit is due, many people involved did step up to help. Some people have paid yearly or monthly dues. Others run events and continue to teach classes. One person anonymously donated a fire pitt and mop bucket for the studio, and it was the nicest thing anybody could have done. But as the years have gone by, I’ve begun to struggle with commitment, essentially. That of my own, and that of the others’ involved. Herding cats is never an easy task…
For perspective, almost no member of the Vibe Tribe who was there in the beginning is still with us. People come and go so quickly. I’ve often pondered “what’s wrong with this project that people leave it so easily?” The answer is parallel to asking “what is wrong with humanity?” The Vibe Tribe is a perfect metaphor for real life… where all of these different types of energies come together and some mesh well, and some don’t.
In short, the concept was viable, but not sustainable in the long run. For every good person willing to help get their hands dirty, there is another making the space even more filthy and unfit for survival. For every person willing to give $50 in dues, there is another stealing the same amount in equipment or energy. The drama alone costed more than I can afford to admit. They say balance is the key to the universe…. and by all means, I’ve learned that I am NOT much of a business woman…. essentially what I am saying is that everyone, including myself talked a big talk when it came to our desires and dreams and goals, but when it came down to it, nobody was willing to put in the amount of work to make it sustainable. Showing up is half the battle. It was all about what YOU can come and contribute. And even though people continue to message me daily saying “I’m coming to class this week / when is your next event / how can I help support?” they have stopped showing up almost all together.
As much as I’d like to place blame on several individuals involved with the project who never contributed, who didn’t donate their time or resources…. in reality I can only blame myself. For not being a stronger leader; for not investing more time or energy, and for not inspiring more individuals collectively to keep this alive. I could/should/would have liked to do more. But I am only one person. I can only do so much.
No, I am not down on myself! In fact, I am more ecstatic than ever about the prospects of the future… I’m about to start hosting on SoulCypher’s internet radio show 5-styles, also I’m working with the budding American Roots Magazine with Little Class Records, and promoting an amazing new eye mascara ;) Did I mention there is the new album I’m working on? Time is a valuable thing, and I’m attempting to create more of it for myself by letting that which does not serve me go.
The lessons learned through the Vibe Tribe experience, lessons about community and organizing, have all been invaluable.
My idealistic side would still like to think that communal organizing and even living could be sustainable. I’ve always had a vision… living with my tribe. Growing food. Dancing and singing in the evenings by fire side. Cafes, plays and cabarets. I want it all… and I want to share it with the people who I love. My star family. As soul mates. Admittedly, naivety will always be my weakness. And for that I am grateful. One must be grateful for the experience, the journey, not necessarily the destination.
How can you support now? Well, if you know anybody looking for an art studio/production space, we are currently looking for somebody to take over the Vibe Tribe location and make it their own. Please contact me for details at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also could use your financial contribution to pay off the absorbent back-billed water bill that was just sprung upon us. Please, if you can give, you will be appreciated!
I would like to formally THANK my boyfriend and love, Tim “Bring the Ruckus” Ruck for being such a rock star and supporter. Thank you for your help, assistance, ambiance and unconditional love. You have been more than on my side, and for that I am grateful.
And finally, LET ME KNOW your thoughts on communal living and working situations. The more you learn, the more you know what to expect, and I am never done learning!
No place like OM,