A Glorious Day at the Collab

by Marilee Jolin

The rain is pouring down relentlessly outside the Hillman City Collaboratory. Everyone coming in the door is drenched and sopping; whether they walked a mile or just from their car.

Inside the air is warm and cardboard stars shine from the rafters, leftover from last week’s 2-year Anniversary party.

It’s Monday, December 7th, 2015; just another day at The Collab.

The Incubator our coworking office – is a full house this morning: every table (even the standing table) is filled with a laptop and a focused grass-roots worker. The Phone Booth and Conference Room are both occupied, so Burke Stansbury of Center for Community Change Action perches on one of the child-sized chairs in the Kids Room. On Sundays, this is where the kids from Valley & Mountain play and sometimes during the week it becomes an over-flow space for coworkers’ phone calls. Burke is arranging a presidential forum in Des Moines, IA while sitting on a bright red kiddie chair – and he couldn’t be happier about it.

The Conference Room is packed out with the contributors and editors of The Globalist who are tossing story ideas across the table and putting together the nuts and bolts of their impressive online publication. The Globalist is a powerful force in online media, elevating diverse voices and making the international local – and doing so with an impressively diverse body of leaders and writers. And they’re doing it all from The Collab.

Elissa Gross of the Washington Student Association is knee deep in email, checking in on her student lobbyists. The Washington Student Association is the only organization to have full-time student lobbyists representing students’ interests to the state legislature. Soon Elissa will be in Olympia full time but, for now, her energetic presence is lighting up the coworking space on a stormy Monday morning.

Author and activist Jonathan Rosenblum’s laptop is surrounded by piles of papers and file folders; he thumbs through them scattering a few as he works on his book which details the fight for $15/hr wage in SeaTac and the future of the labor movement. He takes a break to sort out the candle-making supplies for Kadima Reconstructionist Community’s candle-making event that will take place later on in the Collab Kitchen.

On the other side of the double doors, the Mixing Chamber is also hopping.

Jones Community Solutions is helping clients obtain free cell phones. One woman enters, absolutely drenched from the endless sheets of rain. She apologizes, knowing it’s not the official Drop-In Center time but asking if she can have a cup of coffee and dry out a bit while she waits to talk to Javan and Annette about her Budget Mobile phone. We talk about how hard life can be until her bus arrives. And when she leaves, she leaves with a hug.

Today, everyone has commented on this month’s art gallery, just hung last night. Everyone loves 10 x 10, a Backstreet Bazaar tradition, where 100 different artists each contribute one 10 x 10 canvas and then all 100 canvases are hung in the Mixing Chamber Gallery. The variety is staggering; the creativity even more so!

Over in the corner, Ben Hunter, Collab co-director and founder/director of Community Arts Create, is being interviewed for CityArts magazine, discussing exciting developments in both his personal music career and CAC’s Rhapsody project.

While they discuss blues and folklore and youth musicians, I pop out back to check on the chickens. Despite the rain “The Ladies” still bustle out to the fence in hopes of their favorite mealworm snack. But today I’m all business – anxious to get out of the rain; I grab the eggs and go, tossing a thank you over my shoulder as I rush back indoors.

Claire drops by to pick up the elements of the button-maker used by ROAR on Saturday for the Community Health Expo which was an epic event promoting health and fitness for families in South Seattle.

Mike is here, checking the set up between his laptop and the projector for the Carbon WA event on Friday. We joke about technology and how ancient his computer is, but it all connects up and works just fine.

Davidson, from anchor partner Valley & Mountain stops by to assist a Collab volunteer navigating the purchase and registration of new vehicle. Shared resources, knowledge and the willingness to help one another are par for the course within these brick walls.

As the afternoon settles in, Ben and Victor uncover the pool table and set to some important business. The crack of the cue ball is music to my ears.

Here at The Hillman City Collaboratory, we’ve got it all.

We’ve got people obtaining essential services to help them find their way in this rapidly changing world; we’ve got great art and wonderful music and delicious food; we’ve got major legislative action being organized; we’ve got important stories being told in world-changing ways; We’ve got relationships strengthening; We’ve got faith communities of all stripes. And we’ve got a pool game going.

I mean, really, what more can you want?

Marilee Jolin writes a regular column for the Emerald. She lives in Beacon Hill with her husband and two daughters.

Featured image courtesy of Peter Francis Cornelius Gallagher