Sustainability is a high priority to us at Xpand Fest and the Xpand brand. That can mean a lot of things so we feel it is important to break it down in a few ways that are particularly important to us.
First, one small exciting thing is that we have upcycled beverage stands (sneak peek right here!) from Bel Chere, for those of you who remember that 35 yr. free Asheville event! These were literally picked up by our Production Director from the trash, then painted and embellished by the team. Much like when thinking about the broad term sustainability, some things can be fairly easily repurposed and improved while others need BIG overhauls. While this simple project was a small feat, it felt important to bring in some of the long term love-affair Asheville has had for music, arts, and free street festivals.
One of the things we are very excited to introduce this year is live screen printing for our official Xpand Fest merchandise t-shirts offered by GriftTown Goods. From a sustainability standpoint, her shirts certainly make the cut and she even makes her own soy based inks! By having all merch shirts printed live, we can guarantee we won’t over print and waste shirts, something that can be very difficult for festivals to manage accurately.
In FACT, our scavenger hunt is a way for us to give some of our previous (and quite awesome) Xpand Fest merchandise to the public, and all it requires is an inquisitive mind and a few fact-finding missions! If you want to participate in our scavenger hunt, please stop by our Information booth at the entrance of the festival (150 Coxe Ave) and we can explain it all to you.
So, as someone who believes in being real about my successes and failures, I feel it’s important that we come clean on something we haven’t QUITE figured out as best we can, which is how to sustainably managing water consumption at the event. Our goal is to eventually move away from plastic water bottles entirely, but until then, we do encourage you to bring your own bottle and we will provide water coolers at a variety of spots around the festival. We also have sport water bottles for the same price as plastic ones to hopefully encourage people to at least think a little more sustainably.
Now, that we’ve shared a few highs and lows on where we are with some aspects of sustainability, let’s move to one of the biggest focused intentions we feel is worth highlight for Xpand Fest #3.
Before we dive right in, it’s important to note that one of our biggest overarching sustainability goal is encouraging and creating healthy economic development of our community through supporting artists and historically underserved communities (which can include but is not limited to: people of color, veterans, individuals with mental/physical illness who need support, individuals in recovery, at-risk youth, etc).
In that vein, we have humbly and graciously strategically partnered with Artists Designing Evolution (adé PROJECT) who will be launching the adé PROJECT: Listening Lounge in, and around the Refinery Creator Space (270 Coxe Avenue) to take place from 12 – 8pm Saturday, June 8th.
Artists Designing Evolution (adé PROJECT) is a multi-generational, intersectional grassroots cooperative bringing artists of color who call the Southeast home together to actualize equity, spark creative inquiry + reclaim the narrative and we walk with many to design change.
As we personally align with adé PROJECT’s mission we honor that intention has gone in to carefully curating in and around The Refinery in collaboration with other artists of color. They have invited the community to speak what it needs as they design a space that is in celebration of the culture of black + brown folks. adé PROJECT: Listening Lounge and all of its healers, educators, artists, change makers, leaders, youth, elders, families, song keepers, soul stirrers, and medicine mamas challenge us to act and know that first, we must always listen.
So, exactly how do they plan to do that? Let’s drill into a few of the specific offerings you might find inside The Refinery this Saturday!
Before you even make it inside the Refinery you will come across an Immersive Art Installation and Market that is testing grounds for collaboration, supporting artist entrepreneurship and is a space of healing for all. There will be a kids area, art for sale, and immersive arts experience hosted by Chris Corral and Valeria Watson (Yeye Siju Osunyemi). Valeria is a Yoruba priestess, artist, author, and artistic leader who is curating “Affrilachia” space in honor of the passage of culture between Asheville, NC and sister city Osogbo, Nigeria. The space will feature a Mend-Make Market showcasing dolls, pillows, and other pieces woven with Osogbo textiles; Yemoya-centered Yoruban culture; Oya-centered Yoruban literature; community sacred space, and more!
Community art projects are a core piece of the adé PROJECT: Listening Lounge will take place in the form of eco-arts, and screenprinting in front of Refinery hosted by Soul + Soil Project, an agriculture + art project founded by Alina Talladen; the launch of a Community Quilt Project, facilitated by Jenny Pickens, which will be the start of an ongoing community quilt piece that will be comprised of creative and customized fabric squares that serve as the answer to the question “What does community mean to you?”; and CREATE + CONNECT, a community art project that embodies the essence of connection by co-creating an art piece that welcomes layering, mixed media, reflection, and intentional dialogue, hosted by Roots + Wings: School of Art + Design. The shared intention is to design an intergenerational, welcoming space for the inner artist-child in all of us. In these collaborative spaces, the aim is to provide points of dialogue and connection, and ultimately build community.
adé PROJECT: Listening Lounge opens at noon and unlocks our potential with the Opening Ceremony…and as time begins to unfold, there will be two panels, the first of those at 12:30-1:30pm, Rhythm + Resilience: ACTIVATION, where we will hear from the elders + sage wisdom keepers, and the second from 3-4pm, Rhythm + Resilience: ACTIVISM, where we will hear from the youth + the youthful.
Between 1:30 – 3pm and 4-7pm there is open space with a variety of ACTIVATION STATIONS including:
“Affrilachia”: Community Quilt Project with Jenny Pickens
Create + Connect withRoots + Wings School of Art + Design
Earth Warrior Tarot Deck Readings with Daniele Martin
Eco-Art + Upcycled Art with The Soul & Soil Project
Artwork by Youth Artists Empowered, with Cleaster Cotton
Open Studios Featuring Cleaster Cotton + other AAAC/The Refinery Artists
Community Sacred Space (+ Herbal Remedies)…AND MORE!
Making your way further inside adé PROJECT: Listening Lounge you’ll quickly come upon the artwork of Youth Artists Empowered, a program of students that channel their creativity and imagination on canvas at the leadership of arts + culture powerhouse Cleaster Cotton. The exhibit is 100% youth created, and prints, as seen in the hallway, are available for sale…and even if you don’t buy any art, it will be a great opportunity to come to meet Cleaster or the youth artists! Directly in the mix of the hallway you will come upon the community library, a space home to many books, magazines, and cultural artifacts related to Yoruba, and the symbology of world traditions as well as resources from conferences such as the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference, and the Othering & Belonging Conference. This is a great option for those needing quiet space!
Xpand Fest is very thankful to Cortina Jenelle Caldwell, Founder & Creative Director of adé PROJECT, and curator of the Listening Lounge space this year… their hard work is SEEN, including the overlap of having Ponkho Bermejo from Beloved Asheville (one of our festival partners) weave love throughout the space with the use of prayer flags, art, and literature to reclaim the Latinx narrative.
As the adé PROJECT: Listening Lounge winds down, there will be an opportunity to continue the dialogue from the Creative Sector Summit and form open space around equity + inclusion and hold space for community listening sessions. At 8pm, adé PROJECT will illuminate the path forward with an intentional closing…and as the space closes on such a full day of beauty you will be encouraged to head to the main entrance to participate in the festival-wide lantern parade where you can bring all that community engagement together as we celebrate art, economic development, and camaraderie.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, some things can be adjusted to easily accommodate and update practices to be more sustainable while others take a lot of listening, and slow intentional action. Xpand believes it is pretty clear that Asheville, the United States, and the World have a lot of work to do when it comes to equitable and inclusive programs, businesses and communities- but we feel thankful to each and every producer, artists, vendors, business, creator, dreamer and individual who works on anything that pushes us further in that direction. As it has been said many times in many ways- small acts made by individuals will be the thing that changes the world and Xpand Fest is one tiny way we feel we can support our community in having these conversations and in taking action.