Located in Greenfield’s Crossroads Cultural District, The LAVA Center (Local Access to Valley Arts), is a new arts incubator, black box theater, and community space.   

Opened in 2020, the Center’s goal is to create opportunities in the performing and literary arts through a variety of events, classes, and workshops.   

Vanessa Query is the manager of the LAVA Center and Jan Maher is a co-coordinator and board member at the organization. Query and Maher spoke with Zydalis Bauer about what the Center offers to the community and why collaboration between the arts is so important. 

This interview originally aired on September 3, 2021. 

Read the full transcript:

Jan Maher, Co-Coordinator at the LAVA Center: We created the LAVA Center to be a community arts center that encourages people to become involved and learn in and through the arts.

That’s the sort of founding statement of Local Access, which is the not-for-profit behind the LAVA Center. And that has always been for us, also education and humanities.

So, kind of a mix of those things.

Zydalis Bauer: Franklin County has truly become a notable arts destination in this region, with the center located right in the heart of Greenfield’s Crossroads Cultural District.

Why is a venue like this necessary for the city?

Vanessa Query, Manager at the LAVA Center: I think it’s necessary because there isn’t anything else quite like it. We kind of fill this, this niche where it’s the community arts, where anyone can come and do something artistic, whether it’s performing or displaying their visual art or hosting meetings and classes.

Yeah, I think there isn’t anything quite like that.

Jan Maher: Yeah, we are at a crossroads physically in Greenfield, and we are really a crossroads of a lot of different art forms, too.

So, we have spaces that focus on the visual arts; we have organizations that focus on performing arts; we have organizations that are about the spoken word and poetry. All of that goes on at the LAVA Center.

So, it’s a place for artists of all kinds to come and mingle together and kind of, um, feed off each other’s energy, in a way.

Zydalis Bauer: This collaboration that you’re speaking of, Jan, in an article with the Greenfield Recorder, you stated that you want people to know that you are not in competition with them and that you’re complimenting them.

Why is this collaboration between the arts so vital?

Jan Maher: One thing that comes to my mind immediately, is because our resources are so limited. We don’t– we don’t need to fight over crumbs, we need to collect our crumbs together with the Stone Soup kind of model, you know, and make a whole cake out of your crumbs, my crumbs, the other person’s crumbs. We might have enough to to have a dessert, you know?

And another thing is that that’s just not the way creativity works. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s an exchange of ideas. It’s a free flow of ideas. And to be in competition with somebody else’s ideas in a way that would suppress them or overcome them does not make any sense whatsoever.

Zydalis Bauer: One of your recent collaborations was with the Greenfield Farmers Market. You had the first ever Art Market Day where customers could find local artists and vendors, along with farm and food vendors.

How did the community receive this event, and in what other ways do you plan to partner with local events and institutions?

Vanessa Query: Yeah, the Art Market Day, I think, went really well. It was — the weather was, it was really hot and sticky, so people were very slow and sluggish. But the people who did come were really engaging with with our booth and what we were doing.

So, we had on display, we have these historic postcards of Greenfield from back in the day. We got those blown-up to these posters and we place that — like lawn signs — and we place them all around the common so people could see this exact scene of, you know, the City Hall and the church, what that looked like a hundred years ago on this poster.

Then we invited people to our booth on the Common that day to make their own postcard. We had craft materials, construction paper and, you know, it was mostly kids who did it. But there were some grownups, too, who came and drew a postcard of of their Greenfield, how they saw Greenfield, whether that was literal or figurative.

We are a small space and we are generally a very casual space. You know, I think of us as very welcoming, you know, people just kind of pop in and they’re like, “Oh, what’s going on?” and we’re like, “Come on in and hang out, you know, do something!” And I think people really are responding to that very casual, welcoming, inclusive space that we have.

And this just this attitude that we have about the arts as being for everyone is being a vital part of the community. And that, I think, is where our — part of our mission is an arts incubator comes in.

People do come in and they they meet other artists and they talk about, “Oh, we could do this, we could do this, we could do this!” and things have emerged just as a result of people coming and hanging out and having these conversations.

Zydalis Bauer: As co coordinators, what has been your favorite thing about the Center and what do you want people to know about it?

Jan Maher: I would say my favorite thing is just to stand near the back and see the space filled with a small or large group of people who are there to enjoy anything together in community.

You know, whether it’s the reading or an open mic or musical event or an Echo lecture, just to see the space bring people together with common interests, common enthusiasms, and then to listen in on the conversations.

Vanessa Query: The same as Jan’s. It’s just watching all just these different types — people from all walks of life who just have this shared interest in art or community.

And one example that I have, is one of the artists that comes into our space a lot works with natural materials like bark and hornets nests. And I’ve seen him connect with other artists and just gleefully talk about his process. And then, you know, they will go and find bark for him or find a hornet’s nest for him, and bring it into the space and leave it there for him there. So, just that collaboration between artists is so, so cool to me and to see the product of that.

To see people coming in and talking about, “Oh, I was just talking to so-and-so about this thing” or, you know, just that word of mouth that happens and that excitement that people get about community arts, specifically, about this thing that’s arts as this accessible medium. It’s you know, anybody can do it, anybody can participate in it, and in however way that they they’re inspired to.