The Human Experience of Our Creative Community
I am sitting in The Room Upstairs, our living room style theatre, cross legged on a comfortable couch. To my right, my good friend Tiffany is sculpting an octopus out of polymer clay and giggling with her brilliant musician boyfriend Jordan; he just came off the stage after an intense improvisational jam. On stage now is resident artist Maggie playing folk songs on her guitar. Behind her is a beautiful space scene projected on the screen, mixed with video clips of the ocean. It's beautiful.
To my left is Bobby, a man from the neighborhood who we first met as he collected cans to recycle. He absolutely loves it here. He has a special chair in the back; it's a soft cushy seat, and he kicks back, totally engaged from the time the music kicks in until it finishes at the end of the night. We gather that there isn't much more in life that is available for him; he spends a good bit of time pushing a shopping cart around. Everyone here welcomes him with open arms. In the front row is an autistic lady who rocks hard back and forth to the music and comes with her caretaker, a musician, every week. There are high school kids, college kids, a couple of grandparents, lots of 20- & 30-somethings, and a three-legged black dog.
One resident artist, Dr. Tim Mainland, otherwise known as Captain Lazerblast for his far-out electronic music compositions, says that Monday night open stage is like church for him. It's fellowship; it's comfortable, creative, and super supportive. Everyone claps for each other and mean people would feel completely out of place. People say there is a very peaceful energy in this room, that when they walk in they immediately feel good. I feel certain that these vibes have spread through our neighborhood.
If we had funding for staff and help with operational expenses, we would be happy to open our doors several days a week, if not 7. Currently we host weekly open stage nights and an occasional weekend concert. Over the years we've hosted yoga and dance classes, drum workshops, community meetings, and plays. It's a gathering place, and a hidden gem people typically feel privileged to discover.
People now refer to our block as the arts district, and the color that has spilled onto the street from the yellow brick road crosswalk to the rainbow colored wall tiles to the creative types of all ages hanging out on the sidewalk has done a lot to reverse the dark cloud that had been hanging over downtown Princeton. It wasn't a city mandate or a bill passed to create the district; it sprung naturally from creative energy sparking from a collective of artists. It can happen anywhere. Where there is space, creative energy, passion and drive, this type of garden will grow. We are extremely thankful that after years of building we are experiencing a harvest.
To find out more about Lori's work, visit www.theriffraff.net.