May 18, 2020

The Chaos Within – It Takes a Village with Tia Cole

by joeyphoenix

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“Can we create a village? Could we create a community so that something like this happens that it’s easier, it’s already there, the systems are already in place, there is someone to help care for you and your family and you’re not just on your own?”

Tia Cole

Tia Cole is a local artist, soapmaker, community organizer, and arts advocate. A founding board member of Galleries at Lynn Arts, the Brickyard Collaborative, and Lynn Main Streets, her passion for educating the community about the benefits of the arts has led to her facilitating multiple public art projects in partnership with the Lynn Cultural Council, Artists’ Row Salem, and both the Lynn and Salem Public Arts Commissions. 

She’s dedicated her time and energy to supporting the creative economy through community building and placemaking, and she joins me on the podcast today to talk about creative spaces, collaboration, and as you might suspect, making art. 

Donate Diapers to the YMCA
Donate to the Lynn Community Care Fund

Mentioned in this Podcast

Galleries at Lynn Arts (GALA)
The Brickyard Collaborative
Lynn Main Streets
The Golden Girls
Mutual Aid Lynn Facebook Group

About The Chaos Within

Hosted by Joey Phoenix, The Chaos Within is a podcast celebrating the weird, the wild, and the creative – featuring makers, doers, artists, and oddballs exploring the unknown and tapping into their creative energy.

The Chaos Within is produced by Creative Collective and is available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

The Logo was designed by Anton Presents, the intro music is by Paul Senn ( using the Theta-U Creative Circuit System, and the outro music by Chris Wilson Sound using one of Joey’s maternal Grandmother’s haunted music boxes.

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Creative North Shore is produced, curated and managed by Creative Collective, we are trying really hard to make sure that we don’t have to put a paywall in place and could really use your support to keep afloat and make us able to keep a few of our staff employed and providing you with content and information. Please consider supporting us with any amount.

Audio Transcript

Joey Phoenix 0:05
The Chaos within, part of Creative Collective presents is a podcast celebrating the weird, the wild, and the creative, featuring makers, doers, artists, and oddballs, exploring the unknown and tapping into their creative energies. The Intro Music is by Paul Senn and the outro music is by Chris Wilson Sound.

In the beginning, there was chaos. I’m your host Joey Phoenix.

Joey Phoenix 0:30
Tia Cole is a local artist, soap maker, community organizer, and arts advocate. A founding board member of galleries at Lynn arts, the Brickyard Collaborative maker space, and Lynn Main streets, her passion for educating the community about the benefits of the arts has led to her facilitating multiple public art projects.

In partnership with the Lynn Cultural Council, Artists’ Row Salem and both the Lynn and Salem Public Arts Commissions, she’s dedicated her time and energy for supporting the creative economy through community building and placemaking and she joins me on the podcast today to talk about creative spaces, collaboration. And as you might suspect making art.

Welcome Tia!

Unknown Speaker 1:06
Joey, thank you for having me. You’re awesome.

You’re awesome.

Thank you.

Joey 1:12
So you keep busy. What does the current day look like for you?

Tia 1:18
So we get up and I have three children, they’re usually up before me, hopefully have eaten breakfast. We get up and have coffee and have breakfast and try and get everybody set up, you know, at their computer for schoolwork. And then I fall into my spot at the kitchen counter, which has become my new office. I think that’s the same for a lot of a lot of people nowadays and start fielding phone calls and managing needs requests.

And lately we’ve been I’ve been concentrating on just helping the community through this crisis, providing resources and information I usually start my day with, with a lot of needs requests that have come in overnight: eople that need food or things like that, and then meetings meetings, which lately have actually been like meetings about art stuff, which is nice.

I think that it’s been difficult for me to maintain like a creative environment with all this happening. So hearing stories about other communities that are doing art or ideas of how we can kind of move forward with, with art projects in this new environment that we have has been exciting. And then I try, I have a happy place but that is that is cooking. So I try and I try as much as they can to bring the kids in and I’ll cook something together. But I have to say that’s been not as often as I wish, and then working more in writing proposals and sending off emails and taking notes and trying to figure out new software’s and a new systems and logistics all night until I finally fell asleep. Usually to something like the Golden Girls in the background, I think the Golden Girls has been like a saving grace for me through this whole thing.

Joey 3:08
We to enjoy wherever we possibly can. Even the old sitcoms. So are you working all of your jobs still? Like what are you involved with?

Tia 3:19
Some of the jobs that I do I haven’t been paying as much attention to. And these are mostly all like volunteer stuff that I just want to, you know, coordinate and help and lend services to thankfully places like galleries GALA has been doing twice a week virtual videos. You know, one is like usually a workshop and when it’s their weekly drawing course, and that team has been amazing and hasn’t really needed needed me to get all this going. The Brickyard is a whole horse of a different color, but our membership base is awesome. And I can talk more about that later.

The Lynn Cultural Council, I do the administration for sending out the checks and I think that has been one of the biggest challenges in this time is making sure that everyone’s getting their checks and that nothing’s falling through the cracks. And just as everyone’s communication has kind of slowed down lately, so that makes it difficult. And it’s tough because a lot of artists in our community, you know, can’t do the projects that they initially wanted to do. So we have to go through and check every single project and check in with those people and say, Hey, you know, like, how are you doing? And what can we do to help you? Are you going to be able to, you know, paint that mural that you wanted to paint or something to that extent, and if you can’t, how can we figure out a way to be able to in the future, and I can’t even think of all of it.

Lynn Main sStreets – we we have this amazing board and cohort Lynn Main Streets, and we’ve tried to really make this like a community driven initiative, and our launch date was supposed to be during the year’s Riveting Broads Conference and when we were going to announce that we were like, up and running. So we’ve tried to really figure out how to how to build Lynn Main Streets as an asset to the community. One, we can’t even be out together as a community. So that’s been really interesting and taking a lot of time and research.

Joey 5:20
What are the things that you’re currently doing to stay connected and engaged with the community during all this?

Tia 5:26
One of the upsides of being online, and learning that whole social media stick from previous jobs is I learned that the best tool for communication through our city to really engage multiple communities, which is kind of an issue around here were really diversity. But because they’re so diverse, sometimes we don’t work well. Like we don’t reach out to each other. But one of the tools that’s kind of brought everyone together has been Facebook groups.

We have a lot of Facebook groups in Lynn, one for every type of thing you could possibly want, but some of them are helping others and in this time of crisis, we created the Mutual Aid Lynn Facebook group so that we were able to kind of pump out the proper information and support each other. And it’s opened up a dialogue between people that would never have spoken to each other before. And there’s been a lot of real compassion and empathy and just mutual respect for everybody. And that’s kind of what I’ve done under the auspice of, you know, the organizational part of Main Streets.

One of those key pillars of what we built our main streets to be was to organize everybody. There’s so many different strings of community organizations, and nonprofits and groups and those strings kind of just need to be woven into a fabric for the city to to move forward and, and build our future together. And it’s really interesting to see this, this group and how we all interact with each other. It’s sweet, it’s sometimes it makes me really sad when I see people that like, are really affected by all this, but then within minutes, there’ll be someone there that offers help or assistance or even just offers an ear and listens. And that’s so heartwarming, and it’s really, it gives me a lot of pride in my community.

Joey 7:18
It’s really beautiful. And what I’m seeing a lot around at the moment is people having space held for them in a way that they haven’t ever had it held before. And I am troubled that it has taken this sort of like global difficulty to arrive at this place. But there are small things that are growing out of it that I hope that we can continue to have, even after we found a vaccine and gotten through this

Tia 7:43
Exactly. I hope that whatever this group has started or become that it’s really just morphed into just a potluck form of everyone coming together. And that’s exactly it too. It’s the holding space. That’s something that I only really learned In the last like two years, and it makes such a difference in your life to have somebody hold space for you.

Joey 8:06
Absolutely. Is the mutual aid project part of Brickyard collaborative?

Tia 8:11
No, it almost a standalone. I say I bring it a little bit under the mainstream office because my job at Main Streets was like my position was on a committee to organize the community. So it kind of worked out that way. The Brickyard is just such a force… it’s a makerspace and Lynn’s first makerspace. And no one even knew what a makerspace was when it was first talked about. And the director Ted is he’s like a mad scientist. He’s great. We have everything in there like that you could possibly want if you wanted to create, there’s paint, printers, there’s cameras, there’s, you know, 3d printers, there’s something called the glowforge is like a laser cutting machine and the wood shop.

It’s just an amazing spot to walk into and it really like, you wouldn’t even expect it because it’s in this big like warehouse. But what they’ve done is they’ve created this little community of skill sharing and makers and artists and incubators. Like if you there’s a tech company that has a little space in there, and they’re working on their startup. And in this community, what happened in this time of crisis? Number one, everyone was really sad that no one was allowed to hang out anymore, of course, because, you know, everyone’s used to working together. But number two, the first response from them was, okay, what do we do to help? And immediately our director reached out to his network, and they’ll build a line of communication with one of the major makers, maker spaces, like directors in this in the country and got information on like, how do we make masks? What would be the quality that we would need that would be suitable for hospitals? How do we get those materials?

Which, interestingly enough, Ted was able to make those connections to get like actual 95 grade material to make hospital grade masks and they have just been literally they’re connected with our emergency response team in the city and they have really kept our health center afloat and personal protective equipment before they were able to get shipments in, which is amazing. I think we have – I’m not gonna quote numbers we have a really high rate of infected people because our city is a largely a vulnerable population of essential workers. So being able to support our nursing homes being able to support our health center and our food workers at the donation centers and things like that it’s been imperative.

We just reached out to North Shore Medical Center yesterday to see how we can help and drop off some stuff today and trying to see now that we kind of have on hand is starting to be stabilized a little more now that we’ve gotten PPE shipments and how we can kind of not lose that momentum and be able to support ourselves. cities as well.

Joey 11:02
What an incredible gift that that is. And I’m sort of impressed at, like, how you quickly be able to mobilize to make this happen. Because it seemed like a matter of a few days started seeing production go up.

Tia 11:19
One of the things and again, I always go back to community. One of the things that was amazing was it wasn’t even just the makers, like the makers inspired a whole ton of people. I have people that are in my arts association that were like, Wait, let me help. How can I do this people from other cities, buying plastic and giving it to our makers so that they could make the masks, it really activated so many people? And I think it also is really important because it gave people a sense of purpose. I know that when we all kind of got into this situation or maybe not all of us, I can’t say all of us but a lot of people when we got first started to deal with all this It was like, oh, what do I do? What do I do? Like I don’t it’s so overwhelming and stressful but to have something that you know you can do that’s going to be beneficial to other people and is in your skill set is really like a an amazing thing to have to work with to help deal with the stress of all this.

Joey 12:20
I think like being able to focus attention on something that’s actually beneficial to like beyond yourself, I definitely see how that could have an impact on people’s getting through their day essentially and like I know for me like I I often scrambled to be like, well, what what am I doing that is actually important, like how am I actually helping and then I go back and forth on like, well, I am but I’m not and then it’s just yeah, cuz I’m as not, not being an essential worker. I’m like, well, what is my…What can I actually do that wouldn’t be harmful, but also something that might help as well? And I think like making a mask is very obvious way like reaching out to somebody who is lonely and social media that’s a way and like the mutual aid I hear that people like are getting tangible objects as well as like emotional support. And that is also a way to do something helpful.

Tia 13:09
Yeah, I personally, I need like a sense of purpose and a goal to work towards when I’m doing stuff. You know, I can’t I can rarely do something without intention.

Joey 13:21
Doing things just to do them seems like a hollow feedback loop for me anyway.

Tia 13:25

Joey 13:27
Are you know, you’re doing you know, 5000 things? Are you still making art at the moment?

Unknown Speaker 13:32

I was having this conversation yesterday with the Cultural Council. Um, not all my creative resources are really being tapped to creative problem solving. And then something that I think the creative community really can can think about and like, honor themselves with that ability. things wouldn’t even be invented if there wasn’t that artistic or creative problem solving flair. So we we as Artists or creatives have that ability to say, Alright, I only have, you know, one in two to work with, how can I make five? And usually we can figure out a way somehow. And I think artists are generally why we tend to be solo in our process, we’re still like, often collaborative in so many ways.

So I think that lends to everything that I’m doing to I so I end I feel like I’m able to collaborate with other people with a little less anxiety around it. I don’t mind reaching out to other people. And that’s kind of how I’ve been channeling any creative work. I did do a workshop with my daughters for the galleries at Lynn Arts and we have a call for art out for postcards during this stay at home order. So everyone’s making postcards and they’re mailing unto me and supposed to be putting them online. I promise I’ll get to it.

Tia 14:56
But we did a homemade acrylic poor with like random glue that I found in the garage. And that was fun. But I ordered some nice chalk. And I’m hoping to do some fun chalk stuff. That was, that was something special. I do have a project that I have to work on a community art project that was supposed to be done in groups and workshops that I’m trying to figure out how to re reconfigure that I think a lot of us artists and and especially these public artists, or teaching artists are really trying to figure out how to change what they do to still support everybody. Because the arts are really important. And it’s going to be really important for us to keep making and sharing to get us out through any kind of stress or that kind of thing. We could serve so many purposes. It’s like it is a light, something to look forward to. But it’s also a way to communicate and when times like when words are just not that easy.

And I definitely agree. I think there’s like this common misconception about what Quarantine looks like and like if you’re not making like physical, tangible art, are you creative? And it’s like, actually, like, there are so many different things. And you are tapping into that, to shape the community and provide resources in a way that like if you were spending your time doing something else, we would be at a loss, I think

Unknown Speaker 16:19
Thank you.

Joey 16:23
Yeah, I’m just like overwhelmed, I guess because like there’s such a need such a need right now. And I feel like every everybody that I know that’s in my artists creative oddball circle is really affected by, obviously, how could we not be it’s a global, collective trauma, and we all are like, being the best we can to get through and like we are spending all of our energy pushing out and like creating and trying to help others get by and then most of us aren’t really reserving as much for ourselves because it feels selfish at the moment, to not Give?

So I guess like the question I have for you because I see you doing all these things. How are you holding up? Like, what are you doing to take care of yourself?

I haven’t figured that out. I think that that’s really the challenge. I don’t know if I even had that figured out before all of this.

So I still can barely say no, which I know is something you always say to do.

I haven’t figured it out at all yet. I’m still answering like, emails at one in the morning that are requesting you know, diapers and money because people can’t leave their house and clothe their children and there’s just there’s no balance. And it’s really difficult to figure it out. But I don’t I’m not mad at myself for it. I think that’s the big thing is I know that it’s not just me that’s having this problem. It’s it’s even just the those people are just home with their kids and haven’t figured out how to better balance, you know, get cleaning the house and having the kids there all the time. I think that that’s a huge aspect of why everybody is so stressed right now is because we don’t really have good boundaries and work life balance and home and self balance as a society in this country.

So that in the same way that other things have been exasperated, and this time I think that has to, and I hope that we all kind of figure it out. And when things slowly start going back to the new normal that everyone talks about that part of that new normal is we’re all a little better at setting up boundaries and taking better care of ourselves.

Joey 18:47
Yeah, like, I mean, I’m bad at this too. So I think like my I’m so good at giving advice that I don’t follow and like someone needs something and they’re in a situation where you have the ability to give them to them, and you have enough for yourself? How could you not answer that and like hearing the request for diapers coming through your filters like, how can you? How can you say no and like…this is a super complicated time? It really is. And I think like I do hope that we will be able to, like, have or develop the skills to like navigate this and like, able to like not wear ourselves out and the efforts to help everybody else. But I think like maybe instead of like saying, Hey, stop overextending yourself it’s like what the question might be like, how can your community support you and what they what you’re doing like what what do you need?

Tia 19:38
Yeah. I always have this dream of running away to like, and starting a commune. And it’s a little less like, Doomsday, prepper ish kind of a thought and more like I just, they say it takes a village and I know that that’s right. Like, can we create a village, could we create a community that’s there to support each other so that when something like this happens, it’s, it’s easier, it’s already there. Those systems are already in place. There’s, there’s someone to help care for, you know, you and your family and you’re, you’re not just on your own as a person or as a family isolated

In a more tangible way. And is there anything like that the community can send to you or help you with today’s like, I just would like to know, like, if I put out a call for thing, what do your organizations need most at the moment?

Tia 20:36
I’m trying to figure out a way to get food delivered to anyone who’s immunocompromised and we have some really great volunteers doing that, but I wanted to be able to offer them options. So maybe in the future delivery volunteers, there’s definitely an immediate need at pretty much every city like on the North Shore’s YMCA is helping with some type of diaper bank or distribution. And I know in the YMCA in Salem right now they have 100 families on a waiting list for diapers.

I keep reading this stuff for my city and things are getting pretty intense around here. But we have a lot of like I said before a lot of amazing programs and organizations and we’re supporting those through a fund that we started with the United Way that any donations to that fund, go bypass any administrative fees, and go straight to organizations that are helping with legal assistance if you got evicted from your home or rental assistance if you’ve lost your job and can’t pay rent, even if you’re undocumented don’t have a social security number to provide. Also payments for like your utility bills and stuff like that because things are really hard right now for a lot of people. So donations to the Lynn Community Care Funds are always welcomed and encouraged. I think maybe that’s number one.

Tia 21:57
I really appreciate the work that you’re doing. Things are hard. Hopefully not going to get easier soon. But I hope that we’re going to be able to figure this out in a way that’s beneficial to everybody.

Tia 22:09
I think valid, like I said, making sure that we figure it out in a sustainable effort that can be kept for the future it’s also important to me.

Joey 22:23
The Chaos Within is produced by Creative Collective. Creative Collective connects creativity, community and commerce across the North Shore. As a collection of creative professionals, small businesses, organizations, and individuals. They coordinate a series of events, traditional and non traditional marketing initiatives, resources, and best practices to define why creativity matters in all aspects of life. In the beginning, there was chaos. Then you make it yours.

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