A new housing cooperative that provides free meeting and gallery space has sprouted at Fifth and Roosevelt streets.
The co-op consists of a group of people who all financially contribute to renting the house, including ASU students Dawn England and Emily Foree and ASU graduate Katrina Montgomery. The group has focused on refurbishing the house since the lease started on Sept. 15, though a photography exhibit in the front room was open to the public during First Friday on Oct. 5.
The primary idea behind the co-op is to support the community through sustainable living practices. The front room is set aside for meetings and as a gallery space, while other rooms serve as bedrooms and a dining room.
England described the co-op as “part living cooperative, part art gallery and part community space.”
The co-op stands out because the group hopes to provide the public spaces to the community for free.
“We hope to make it available for maybe people who don’t have any outlets in displaying their art,” Foree said.
Aaron Johnson, store manager at Lawn Gnome Publishing next door, expressed enthusiasm for the free space.
“Wouldn’t it be great if you could book like an hour-long show there and have just your close friends go? Maybe like ten people will show up, right? But that will be a great exposure or a great business card or experience,” Johnson said.
The group had individually been considering ideas that led to the co-op for years.
“It takes a lot of intellectual consideration and studying in order to create something that’s successful and sustainable,” England said. “We’ve all studied our own different alternatives — living alternatives, community building and stuff — we’re not just another group of hippies living together without any cares.”
Montgomery and England are looking to extend their sustainable living practices with gardening and composting. They also hope to use the benefits of residing cooperatively to serve the community.
“The most important part of it is using our resources that naturally would be used through living to support the community,” England said.
Whether supporting the community through offering space, such as the gallery and meeting area in the front room, through gardening and sharing resources or through education on sustainable living, the group hopes to make a positive impact on the surrounding area.
Though the group is still refurbishing the house, the front room is complete and open for use as an art gallery and meeting space. A month after signing the lease, the group was already exhibiting the photography of ASU graduate student Ryan Field.
Field considers photography a hobby and had not considered showing his photos before talking to England about the co-op.
“I was pretty nervous at first because I just do it for fun,” Field admitted.
Nonetheless, Field said, over the course of the night, he became more comfortable and began to enjoy having his photography on display. Field’s exposure to the public as an amateur photographer is the type of experience the group hopes to provide to new artists trying to find a footing in the community.
“It was a good first experience kind of to get my feet wet,” Field said.
Montgomery said that the idea of sharing a meal is truly the foundation of the co-op. She explained that cooperative living is related to the nuclear family: Many people in the age group of the co-op, who are either out of college or will be within the year, lose the benefits of a living group between graduating college and having a family.
“If you have time to spend together you can talk about ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this?’ and then you can actually achieve some of these creative ideas,” Montgomery stated.
England reiterated how important the small living community is.
“It all comes back to shared meals,” she said.
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