Across from the downtown YMCA on West Huron Street, The Yellow Barn’s wooden doors and wide terrace reflect it’s former use as a general store. Inside, on any given night, you can find a yoga instructor teaching a class, a local band promoting a new single or a writer reading a poem. The goal is to cultivate local artists. And the business model is similar to a CSA—home-grown produce paid for in advance and delivered to your home once a week. Except instead of vegetables, subscribers get art.
“With the CSA model, you pay ahead and then you get those crops every week,” said Alexander Weinstein, 36, a community organizer for The Yellow Barn. “But in our case our crops are music, dance, theater, poetry and fiction.”
Last August, The Yellow Barn was sitting vacant. Bill Gross, the space’s previous renter, with the aid of local artist Britten Stringwell, started monthly music and arts events five years ago called Bizarre Dances in the space, which he used mainly as his private art studio. The bright yellow paint coating the building’s exterior, led to a logical promotional name: The Yellow Barn.
But when Gross left in July, the building’s own- ers considered what to do with the empty location—it was never intended to be a community center. “That happened organically,” Stringwell said.
Community creativity center
Still, Stringwell and others familiar with the barn’s reputation wanted to preserve the space as a center for creativity in the city. She started writing letters to the landlord, West Huron Properties, detailing how the barn could be transformed into a community space.
She got her wish.
In September, with seven other local artists, she signed the lease. The barn was theirs. Well, sort of, with the task of keeping it funded to fulfill their mission of providing artists the space they need to perform, network and support each other.
“We’re trying to encourage social dialogue that crosses boundaries,” Stringwell, 30, said. “We’re working with literary, performing and healing arts to bring together a diverse group of people.”
Funds are raised in a couple of ways. Subscribers can buy Yellow Cards, which range on a sliding scale from $200 to $500, depending on how much you wish to donate.Yellow Cards get you into any show for free until Janu- ary 1, 2015. Pink Cards cost $50 and grant free access to seven shows. Otherwise, admittance is $10 at the door. But, typically, artists don’t pay to rent the space for the evening; rather, they split the proceeds from admissions with The Yellow Barn.
“The Yellow Barn thrives on the community support- ing it,” Weinstein said. “If the community wants a center where they can come together, this is the way they can do that.”
The eight core artists, all of whom work for free, form the collective currently operating The Yellow Barn, classified as an L3C—a for-profit business with a socially conscious purpose not designed to maximize income. Weekly Sunday planning meetings are held from 12:30 to 2:30pm, and are open to anyone with an interest in joining the collective.
“A lot of artists, a lot of writers, a lot of people feel disconnected having to make a living from their art and not having time to connect in the community,” Weinstein said. “So we’re creating a non-commodified art space.”
In its short stint since September, several local artists and a few traveling bands, such as rock duo Graph Rabbit and blues duo Him & Her, have already graced The Yellow Barn stage.
On a recent Saturday evening of brisk activity, Stringwell stood on the front porch of The Yellow Barn. Be- tween theatrical and music performances by students from the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design who had rented the space for the evening, she smiled. The ages of those in attendance varied widely. Making The Yellow Barn a family-friendly environment, she said, is important to the collective of artists running the space.
“It’s hard to find a space for all those creative things while being a mom or a dad,” said Stringwell, a new mother herself. “And it’s hard to find funding to do it, too.” But, that hasn’t stopped Stringwell—or The Yellow Barn.
Visit www.ouryellowbarn.com for more information and to view upcoming events