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Activists find home in Glenwood

by Amy Kingsley

For years now a motley tribe of progressives has been scouring Greensboro’s supply of industrial buildings, looking for one that might jibe with their plans for a space where activists could share ideas and resources.

They looked at the old Rose Spa, which was too big and expensive. For a while the group settled above the Flying Anvil, but it closed when the club folded.

Now, after drifting for nearly a year, the community space – newly christened the Hive – has found a home in a Glenwood business district struggling to revitalize.

“That was actually a really valuable time,” Jonathan Henderson said. “We spent those months trying to get really clear about a theme for the space.”

The Hive will be an amalgam of private offices, organizations and performance space. From a glass door on Grove Street, you enter a wide common area of white walls and neutral carpet with a small stage in the back. Turn left down a hallway and you’ll find a series of wood-paneled offices, most of which are already earmarked. A nutritionist, massage therapist and a couple nonprofit organizations have already committed to the Hive, and they will move in as soon as renovations are complete.

The founders of the space set market rates for the offices, and then determined how much each renter could pay. Those willing to subsidize their poorer neighbors have volunteered to have a few extra dollars tacked onto their monthly rent, said Liz Seymour. Organizers decided to focus on finding the right mix of renters, not necessarily ones able to pay the most money.

“The space will be kind of an incubator environment,” Henderson said. “It will be a place where people who are working for community empowerment can learn together and work together.”

It will also be a venue for performances, film screenings, lectures, meetings and other events that might otherwise struggle to find a site.

“Right now if someone comes into town to speak on, say, the political situation in Mexico,” Seymour said, “it’s always a scramble to find a space. This will be that space.”

During the day, the doors will be open to anyone who wants to take advantage of a small library or use the internet. Rotating Hive volunteers will staff a small office in the back, keeping an eye on the front and steering newcomers toward resources and information. The Hive itself is meant to be a resource for progressive groups – particularly the smaller ones.

“This won’t be sort of a punk show space,” Seymour said. “It won’t be a commercial space. It’s not the place to set up your Amway distributorship. It’s not a place for political party politics, and it’s not a place for larger nonprofits – not that they don’t do a lot of good – but we’re really encouraging a grassroots kind of participation.”

Bike Me, a bicycle collective that’s been floating around Greensboro for years, is one of the organizations eager to utilize the new space. The Fund for Democratic Communities, a brand new group, and a Greensboro chapter of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee are renting offices in the Hive.

The last tenant moved out during the first weekend in October, and since he left, the Hive volunteers have spruced up the joint with some intensive cleaning and a new coat of paint. On Oct. 13, the Hive hosted its first big event, a fundraising banquet for Food Not Bombs, a charity that cooks meals for the homeless from donated food. Two volunteers swept out the main space last Tuesday in preparation for the weekend’s event.

In keeping with the Hive’s focus on community, Seymour and others have reached out to the Glenwood Neighborhood Association and the other businesses on the block. Several collaborations are in different stages of development, and the end result of all these nascent alliances may look very different than the white-walled space the Hive is today.

“It is probably worth making clear that this is a building process,” Henderson said. “Today we’re really working on the offices, but once those are finished, we can really focus in the rest of the space.”

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com.

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