'Residency Project' at MC demonstrates collective living

It's not exactly like visiting a living history site, because the members of the Greensboro Community Arts Collective aren't in period costume and they don't pretend they live in a different time.

Instead, the "Residency Project" inhabiting the top of Gilman Student Center at Marietta College on Wednesday and Thursday gives visitors an opportunity to experience here and now what life is like in a collective. While the presenters go about their normal, day-to-day activities, the campus community and the public are invited to come in, observe and participate in this demonstration of collective living.

"The Coalition for Social Change brought the GCAC here to raise awareness of alternatives available to us," said MC senior Sam Douthwaite, a member of the Coalition. "Often, as we get ready to graduate, the only options presented to us are going into the world of business or going to graduate school. The collective shows us a different way of living and working in the real world."

Indeed, on Wednesday morning, the Project shows the Collective at work. The room is noisy, busy, and aromatic. Mark, 31, manipulates his drum machine, moving pegs on a large, rotating disc that activates a Rube Goldberg-like collection of percussion-making devices, including a manual typewriter and a turntable.

A cardboard sign above a table filled with "zines" invites visitors to stop and read some of the group's copyright-free publications. Helena, 22, uses pen and paper to create a poster for an upcoming art show at the home collective. Parts of a "30-day Xerox" project cover one wall area. Nathan, 23, chops the vegetables and stirs the pot of soup that the group will share for lunch.

Jonathan, 22, and Lark, 24, are outside videotaping interviews for a reality TV project they are creating for their local public TV channel. Liz, 56, talks with visitors about the collective and the projects the nonprofit organization carries out in the Greensboro, N.C., area.

"We're not a membership organization," Liz says. "We're more like a fluid community of people who come together as needed to work on things we care about."

She describes the Collective's activities as broad, but with several things in common: "Everything we do runs on consensus — we strive to make sure that every voice counts. Everything we do represents an alternative to business-as-usual. It's important to us to demonstrate not only that another world is possible, but that it's here and it's thriving. And everything we do honors the DIY ethic. We believe that every one of us can learn and accomplish more than we think, and probably with less money, too."

The nonprofit group is dedicated to supporting and initiating cultural projects that strengthen community. By sharing housing and living expenses, members of the collective are able to free up time and money for individual creative projects as well as their cooperative activities.

The GCAC currently has several projects underway in their home area: Cakalak Thunder, a radical drum corps with a samba twist; Community Center, a meeting and workshop space in Greensboro; Events Calendar, an online posting for art and activism; Food Not Bombs, a group serving free meals three days a week; Recording Studio, an affordable community resource, and the Screenprinting Studio, a community cooperative to learn and do screen printing. They will also sponsor Fire Flies 2006,"… the second annual celebration of the art of the possible," in July.

The Residency Project at MC continues through Thursday, Nov. 17, concluding that evening with free vegan food and bonfire in the Hermann Bowl (located between the freshmen quad and the Hermann Fine Arts Center on the MC campus) at 8:30 p.m. The event, which is co-sponsored by the Collective and the College's Coalition for Social Change, will offer an open space for attendees to perform, present and showcase their creativity. The hosts anticipate music performances, artwork presentations and many other displays of talent. In case of inclement weather, the event (minus the bonfire) will be moved inside the Pioneer House on Fourth Street.