Hi there! We’re starting to blog again, after a long hiatus! This week’s blog is by Erin Bicknese!
When I first moved to Knoxville almost 5 years ago, I biked by to see some people gathered in the backyard who were meeting to cook for Food Not Bombs Knoxville. I stopped to ask what was going on, and these people became my first friends in town. That was the first of many many times that I would meet new friends simply by talking to someone new on the front porch or in the backyard of the Birdhouse.
We have done a lot of work on the building — some ourselves, some through finding volunteers and affordable labor. We fixed the roof, renovated the kitchen, put down new hardwood floors, and more. We found funding in order to have a full time director for the space, so that someone can be in charge of booking bands and events, managing expenses and upkeep. Over the years since this change, I have seen amazing things happen. The Birdhouse went from a sort of clubhouse for the usual suspects in arts and activism in town, to a place that hosts an incredibly diverse lineup of events. People from many parts of town and many walks of life come together at the Birdhouse to educate one another, entertain one another, and organize to improve the community in so many ways.
The Birdhouse is the center of social life and service for many of us here in Knoxville, and nowhere that I have lived or visited have I seen such a vibrant, effective, and vital community center.
Here are just a few things I have attended in the last two years:
•a traveling puppet show from central america
•a speaking event by the Mullins family from Virginia, talking about how their life was turned upside down by mountaintop removal coal mining
•a community potluck Sunday night dinner
•a meeting of the Hands Off Appalachia Campaign
•some folks talking about their work to stop the keystone XL pipeline
-a night of spoken word and hip hop
•a night of spoken word and hip hop
•countless shows by traveling musicians
•a number of fundraisers for environmental groups I work with
•a square dance
•a garden work day
•a letter writing night during which we wrote letters to people in prison.
•the “Mama’s Market,” a market where women can sell hand-made goods (I sold bread!)
-a sign making party for a rally against racism and in support of Trayvon Martin’s family
•Just last week I sat on the porch using free internet, while listening to a live six piece hip hop group practice in their studio upstairs. Amazing!
•I think the Birdhouse is also the first place I played music for an audience! And I’m sure this is true for countless other local musicians.
And that’s just a sample of what I can remember off the top of my head!
Here are two examples of new and exciting projects based out of the Birdhouse:
1) After last summer, someone tested the soil in the Birdhouse’s community garden, and it turns out that it had a higher than healthy lead content. Gerry researched and found that sunflowers can be used to bioremediate soil! So this year we’re taking a break from growing food, and instead, we planted soo many sunflowers! We’ll test the soil again after this summer, and all learn together about what it takes to bring the soil back up to a healthy level for growing food. And conveniently, the Birdhouse is also the center of organizing for the Labor Day Sunflower Project, annual Labor Day celebration of collective work, celebrated by weaving together sunflowers grown all over the city in the middle of our Market Square downtown. In fact, tonight at Krutch Park extension is the LDSP multimedia arts event from 7-10 featuring Circle Modern Dance with Bateria Appalachia!
2) Cypher Saturdays has been a wildly successful monthly event, bringing together community (and serving as a fundraiser for non-profits around town, including Knoxville’s street newspaper, the Amplifier!)
All of that stuff is amazing- but as it turns out, the Birdhouse is still not safe! There are a number of overwhelming financial needs, things that need to happen to continue updating the building, paying rent to the neighborhood association, and more. If you are excited about supporting a center of multicultural programming, community healing, and grassroots organizing, the Birdhouse is a great place to start! It was for me!