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Based in Akron and just over a year old, VIBE Collective is passionately working to activate systems-level change for artists in Northeast Ohio. The community-based collective is comprised solely of working artists and activists, all volunteering their time to the cause of elevating the value of grassroots and marginalized artists in our region. We had the opportunity to talk with Amber Cullen and Nichole Epps, to learn more about VIBE’s philosophies and their dedication to artists. We’re excited to connect with our fellow arts advocate neighbors in Akron!
Q. Can you briefly describe your work?
A. VIBE Collective, LLC strives to be an intermediary in Northeast Ohio between art institutions/arts administrators/businesses/community groups, and artists across the region. We are a network of artists in the intersection of art, culture, and education, who seek to create spaces for community transformation and healing. As artists, we work in the intersections of art and community, art and equity, art and community development, art and organizing, art and identity, and art and revolution. As arts administrators, our goal is to bridge the gap that often exists between institutions and community, and community and institutions, channeling more resources into the hands of grassroots and marginalized artists, and investing in the work of institutional diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Q. Who do you see as your primary audience? How does your work benefit the creative community?
A. We see ourselves as serving two audiences: Artists and institutions. We seek to amplify the work of grassroots artists in Northeast Ohio, and support these artists in their endeavors. We also seek to advocate towards diversity, equity, and inclusion in institutions. Our hope is that artists find a safe and supportive space in our network, and that institutions find a network through which to book artists for their next events.
Q. How was VIBE Collective formed?
A. VIBE Collective was created in January 2018 at an initial meeting of artists in Akron, Ohio involved in "Until Name Becomes Prayer," an multi-disciplinary event featuring International Slam Poet William Nu'utupu Giles. Bringing Will’s story to Akron and supporting his work had a significant impact on local artists and helped VIBE to evolve as a network of like-minded artists. We found that we liked our collective "VIBE," and wanted to continue in the work of utilizing the arts to collaboratively create spaces of expression, connection, and the building of empathy across our city.
Q. What kind of community work most influences your vision?
A. VIBE’s infrastructure was greatly influenced by the Intercultural Leadership Institute, a collaborative program of Alternate ROOTS , First Peoples Fund , National Association of Latino Arts & Cultures (NALAC) and PA’I Foundation that brings artists and culture bearers together in a peer leadership cohort. What might it look like to curate a multi-ethnic, intersectional network in the Midwest? VIBE Collective is the answer to that question.
Q. How would you define the idea of success for artists?
A. For community-minded artists, success is a relative term. Every artist has their own reason for creating--to express themselves, to find connection, to reflect their reality. Success is the recognition that art is a necessary and beautiful endeavor and the support to embark on it. When art intersects with community, it can be messy, painful, chaotic, and honest. It is in these intersections that many of us find true success.
Q. As a collective, where do you find inspiration for new ideas?
A. We have quarterly potlucks where we get together and network. Often we find ourselves in a sidebar after a meeting, curating transformational spaces. Each of us are so niché in the intersections of our work, that our joined voices only bring a stronger melody. We’re currently working on a piece intersecting the formerly incarcerated community and former refugee community. There was another production centering Black artists, and another centering the Native community. Even another centered Trans and Queer artists. As we build relationships, we can explore the intersections of these intersections. Our goal, always, is to help artists get funding for projects, or take them to the next level.