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An urban commune for the arts (partially on stilts)

A north-side collective's loft is as much a living, breathing art project as it is a place to lay your head.

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A multidisciplinary collective in which a cast of twentysomethings share a commercial loft roughly 4,000 square feet in size and host events ranging from DJ-fronted dance parties to folk shows to poetry readings might find itself in an occasional kerfuffle. Too many cooks spoil the broth: it's usually a decent idiom to live by.

But this north-side collective—which I won't be referring to by name, in order to protect its underground status—has an open-jam vibe about it. When I enter the space, a musical-improv session is taking form between Sean and Leli (roomates one and two) as a boa constrictor, draped over the shoulder of Hannah (roommate three), plays the role of the audience. It's eerie how laid-back it all is.

The construction of the area itself is like one massive freethinking art project, with a hand-built playground slide included. The four permanent bedrooms have been supplemented by three treehouse-like loft bedrooms on stilts, which Leli helped design. Strands of Christmas lights are haphazardly strewn about the ceiling, a homemade fabric sunflower—something of a chandelier—hangs suspended over the kitchen table, an installment of lamps stretches up one of the support beams, and, on the northeast wall, a vibrant mural by artist Iris Iris creeps up into the corners of the space.

"We spent maybe a week with 20 people building the mural," Teresa (roommate four) tells me.

Lounging on the lot of mismatched, scavenged furniture, the five roommates—the sixth is absent, the regularly rotating seventh moved out—finish one another's sentences about the communal mission of the collective.

"Everything is consensus based," Mari (roommate five) explains. "We meet once a week and talk about events happening, who's going to be using the space, food, rent . . ."

"We do rent in a really special way," Hannah continues. "Among the six or seven of us, it's pay what you can. It's flexible and transparent."




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