The Garfield Messenger

Viva Vera

Get to know Seattle’s all ages music venue.

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Viva Vera

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The Vera Project – a non profit music venue, screenprinting studio, art gallery, recording studio and audio training facility – has set itself a complex task: provide a safe space to foster creativity, that also caters to people of all ages. Despite the obstacles it faces, mainly a lack of funding, Vera has managed to create a truly one of a kind venue that delivers fully on its mwwission to provide a “personal transformation through collaborative, youth-driven engagement in music and art,” (according to their mission statement).
The Vera Project was created by two University of Washington students, James Keblas and Shannon Stewart, back in 2001. “Two of our founders went and studied abroad in Holland, and there is a club over there called Vera,” says 19 year old Shoreline College freshman and Vera participation coordinator Jessica Schollmeyer. “ They run on a volunteer model and they get help from the city for their funding and support so James and Shannon brought that back over here and worked with the City of Seattle to create a space.”
Surprisingly, all ages venues were scarce in Seattle at the time. This was due in part to the Teen Dance Ordinance, a controversial Seattle law that made it very difficult for proprietors to open their doors to people of all ages. During its existence from 1985 to 2002, they required a one million dollar liability insurance policy, 3 off duty cops, and an age limit from 15 to 20. Even now, although most venues host some all ages shows, there are few exclusively all ages spaces in Seattle. This means that those under the age limit often miss out on valuable experiences.
All music lovers know the feeling: finding out your favorite band is visiting your city, scrambling to get tickets and then, with a sinking feeling, noticing that little 21+ in fine print at the bottom of the page. This can be particularly crushing to younger concert goers, who are deprived of opportunities to learn, listen, or be a part of the show.
“They are the ones trying to go to shows, buying this music and supporting our culture,” says Schollmeyer. “Youth are the future of the music industry and we want them to come in on the ground floor.”
Aubrie Kralis, a 17 year old Center School student Vera intern/committee chair says that Vera has given her the experience she needs to manage and help out with other shows in the future.
“I have more experience with working merch, or box office and money handling. So if my friends are looking for a merch person, they’ll ask me to help out. I’ve worked merch at other places like the Moore and other venues with friends bands,” she said.
Apart from learning about the music industry from her experiences, Aubrie has also met some of her best friends through her time at Vera. “Everyone’s very close with each other. We are always very open, everyone becomes friends.”
Another aspect Vera prides themselves on is their safe space policy. “We are all about safe space, for example our pre-show meetings include their name and their pronouns. We want to make sure everyone is comfortable and is safe and so we work around you and your comfort level,” said Aubrie.
Jessica agrees. “It’s definitely important, especially in our current political and social climate, to have a space where people can go to express themselves in any way they want.”
By fusing the arts and music with a focus on youth empowerment, The Vera Project has established a community unlike anything else. So, next time you find yourself looking for something to do on a Friday night, or just happen to be perusing Seattle Center, stop by and see for yourself the world they have created.
You can also find more information on their website: www.theveraproject.org.

 

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Viva Vera