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A Talk with The Lavender Room's Jare C, and a Look into the Venue's Needs and Future

(Editor's Note — A Community Fund has been established to help The Lavender Room cover expenses and continue its important mission. A goal of $3,000 has been set for the fund. Less than two weeks into the drive, more than $1,500 has been raised. 1120 Press spoke with Jare C, leader organizer of The Lavender Room, who provided a closer look into the state of the venue. We're thankful for Jare's time. Let's keep the momentum going and help this vital art space. Please share this story to help spread the word.)

1120 Press: Thank you so very much for speaking with us. Let’s jump right into it. There is now a Community Fund that’s been established for The Lavender Room to cover expenses relating to upgrades and maintenance. Can you tell us about the need, and the overall state of the space?

JARE C: Sure! Essentially, we're running the space in the basement of our house. There are 6 folks who live here, all of us queer, many of us who identify as nonbinary/trans, and a few of us whole identify under the BIPOC identity. For a while, our goal with Lav Room has been that we'd keep expenses as low as possible, while still creating a DIY space that we wish we had — one that is not "queer inclusive", but queer centered, with the specific needs of the queer community — namely, safety being key in our efforts. Unfortunately, running a venue full time, along with working day jobs, and being in school, is not only expensive, but is also incredibly difficult, and in some ways, a little impossible. Since we're DIY, we're running on borrowed and salvaged supplies — we borrow many of our tools, tables, and chairs from the incredible Tool Library, borrow our sound equipment from one of our organizers, and our stage is made of pallets we found on Craigslist with some old carpeting we found stapled on top. For a fun space to do a couple shows in, this all works fine — but as a long term project that would like to be a community space with longevity, we need to upgrade some of these things so we can remain sustainable. Additionally, we need to keep our organizing efforts from coming directly out of the pockets of the folks on our organizing team who are all queer/trans folks working lower-paying jobs without the resources to fund the project directly, even with the incredible community support we've received in the past few months we've been operating.

1120: Is this a situation in which The Lavender Room is trying to overcome a bump in the road, albeit a significant one; or are we talking about a situation that could ultimately determine its future? How pivotal a time is this for the space?

JARE C : This is... a really good question. One we haven't really been asked yet. This isn't a "save the record store" situation, but we are in a situation where our ability to sustain, and especially our ability to grow, is becoming strenuous. We want to do this as long as possible, however, we'd like to reposition Lavender Room from a basement/house venue into a bonafide DIY venue space that is NOT in the place we all live, haha. So, this is kind of a bump in the road. We could probably continue on for another nine months in the current space we're in, on the lease we have, as we are, but we certainly wouldn't have the resources or materials to bring that to any other spaces, and so we might not be able to exist for at least a year, if not longer. We also are really in need of our own sound gear to continue doing what we're doing, regardless of which physical location we have. If we can fund our ability to get a stable Lav Room gear setup, then our ability to exist long-term becomes exponentially easier. But, without the fund, we'd still continue to practice art as activism, with the team we have (and hopefully some new folks); it might just not look the same as how we've been doing it. And we really like how we've been doing it.

1120: What’s at stake here?

JARE C : I struggle with this question. I guess what's at stake is the people who are in the core Lavender Room team's ability to do the things we do that the community really seems to value. We want to keep doing what we're doing, just a little cleaner, and a little better, but funding it ourselves is impossible, and has become a little personally unhealthy for some of us. We've been struggling to meet rent, pay bills, etc., because we are so thrilled to welcome people into our home and make cool art while meeting new people. Additionally, we're one of, if not the only, trans-run community space in Buffalo, if not the only trans-run DIY space, at least. And we wouldn't be able to do this, or at least as frequently, without the incredibly engaged and supportive community that we have. One that is always growing, and is always becoming involved in organizing new cool events — stuff that Buffalo definitely has a need for, but not a ton of resources. At least, not individually. We've found that when a lot of people have only a little, but pool what they have, we all end up having more than enough. That is to say, it seems like if we are successful with our goals, we prove that collective action works and we'd like to keep proving that, I think. We're branching out from music into community classes, recording local artists' work, distributing zines, connecting folks with food and clothing resources, contributing to mutual aid funds, and these are all things we want to keep doing. There could be a really bright future for art, queerness, and community in Buffalo as a result.

1120: In a message that is running on the Community Fund page, The Lavender Room Team mentioned it wrestled with requesting funds. But, in the wake of doing so, what we’ve seen is a significant measure of concern and affection for The Lavender Room. People are helping to spread the word and donating. What’s the team’s reaction to the community’s response so far and what message do you take from that?

JARE C : We feel fucking great. Organizing is stressful, and it comes with a lot of discourse and problem-solving. But when people say that they feel safe here, that they feel seen, that they found their new favorite artist or that they've never performed in a space that made them feel so valued as an artist, that validates what we're doing, deeply. We really didn't want to ask for funds from folks- we know that everyone else is just as broke as we are. But we also know our community well enough to know that they'd like for us to be honest and transparent about what we're going through, and if they can help out, they will. This has been a validating reflection of that.

1120: Is there anything else that you want the community to know that we haven’t covered here?

JARE C : Uh. That we love you. A lot. And that we really want more folks to help us decide what the long-term goals for this project are, and how we're using these funds. If you'd like to join our team, we have a Volunteer Discord Server that's in the link of our Instagram bio, or you can just reach out via DM there and we'll get back to you as soon as we can. Thank you really doesn't feel like enough, but it's what we have right now — so...



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