Growing Common Folk Collective Seeks Permanence
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Common Folk is ready to expand and bring a sustained creative energy downtown.
Jessica Sweeney, co-founder and creative director of the North Adams-based artist collective, has seen the group grow and fluctuate through its early beginnings as a small collection of creative people to a force capable of hosting music festivals.
She noted that although the group is much stronger, it still struggles with becoming financially stable and has yet to find a permanent home to support its mission.
"At the end of the day, we aren’t just a club and we aren’t a group of people. We are here for the community and we want to do things that the community wants to do," Sweeney said. "We want to bring people together ... We are ready to be here permanently and we are hoping that there are other people who want us to be here permanently."
Common Folk is losing half its space acquired this summer in the Bekshire Bank plaza on the corner of Main Street. The stage area, where members often put on shows, will be renovated into a new gallery.
Although this represents a loss for Common Folk, Sweeney said it also means that what they are doing is working.
"I think what is happening is that we are an active presence downtown and we have a part in making downtown North Adams more vibrant," she said. "Everything that we do is because we care about the city, and we want more businesses to come and sign leases here. If we are part of that draw and we make the downtown feel more alive outside of those larger events, that is great."
Sweeney said Common Folk can still use the lounge area and support open mics, small acoustic shows and workshops. Although it has lost the ability to put on larger shows in its own space, Sweeney said it does not mean the group can't host them elsewhere.
"We want to work with other venues, and we want to talk to other people about putting on shows and really think outside of the box of what this looks like," Sweeney said. "If anyone has any cool ideas for collaboration we are really down for that.
She said Common Folk has been catapulted by creative initiatives such as the DownStreet Art Incubator Program and that downtown property owner Scarafoni Associates has been incredibly supportive as group has moved around. However, the clock is always ticking and funding runs out or someone wants to lease the space its in.
But it is almost there.
"I think we are at a critical point where we have enough of a backbone but we need the whole spine and if we want to stay downtown that is going to require more money and support," Sweeney said.
The group is not necessarily just asking for financial support but wants to continue to tap into the talents of people in the area.
"Really if anyone is just interested in joining the group we could always use someone who is interested in marketing or someone who is interested in being part of the team," she said. "So if people have skills they are willing to share, in anything really, we are kind of an open gate."
She said volunteer coordinators, curators, people with production experience and people who just want to volunteer are very welcome. The group is strong and diverse but solely volunteer run so the more the merrier.
She added that people often go to the Common Folk shows but they don’t always realize what happens behind the scenes. She urged people who enjoy the shows to get more involved.
"It is about our community and about bringing together in our community to enjoy creative experiences," Sweeney said. "People know what we are, but they don’t always know who we are and we are open to anyone who wants to join us."
Every third Thursday of the month Common Folk host a comedy open mic. The group also will be playing at Fresh Grass this coming weekend at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Using the promotion code of "COMMON" gets a discount on three-day passes. Common Folk will perform on Friday, Sept. 16.
Common Folk will also attend the Sept. 24 rally and vigil at Noel Field for National Recovery Month and also host an art exhibit at the Common Folk Gallery. It also hosts "Moon Hooch" on Oct. 5 at the Elks Lodge.
People can donate through the group's Patreon account. More information can be found on the Common Folk Facebook page.
Tags: cooperative, music,
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