Adventures In Community-Building

Rhizome: a lateral underground root system, sending up above-ground shoots to form a vast network. Difficult to uproot.

So I’ve made a bit of a discovery (it’s interesting to live in a large city). I have found out about The Rhizome Collective. It’s a group of people living long-term in a rent-free 9,400 square foot warehouse in East Austin. Their goal is to build a community which supports the values of cooperation, autonomy, creativity, mutual aid, openness, and self-empowerment. Some of their projects:

  • Rainwater catching
  • Gray water constructed wetlands
  • Guerilla gardening and soil construction
  • Chickens
  • Biological Mosquito Control
  • Polyculture Ponds
  • Bicycle Part Windmill
  • Edible Neighborhood
  • Earth Building
  • Passive Solar Ovens

The collective also hosts several events. First there is a dinner theater; for $20 one can enjoy an elegant four-course meal and performance. Proceeds are given to the Center for Community Organizing with 20% donated to RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network). Then there is the Thursday dinner, where participants collect food, cook, prepare the space and clean-up, and also share the meal. One can RSVP and contribute $3-$8 per dinner, RSVP and volunteer, or bring a dish. This event’s objectives are to come together as friends and have fun, to build trust among different groups in the community, for activists to learn from each other and network, and to gear up for the Local Empowerment Conference to be held in March, 2004. Lastly, the collective is host to the members of the Inside Books Project. Volunteers gather twice a month to improve the reading and educational opportunities of people incarcerated in state prison. They receive donated books and send them to prisoners.

Another aspect of the collective is a Free Skool, which offers free classes on glass etching, portraits, tile mosaics, theater improv, poi, drawing & stencil, seed bead techniques, breakdancing  and poetry.  The aim of the school is to provide an opportunity for self-expression, community growth, and autonomy in a non-intimidating atmosphere that breaks tradition with the usual student-administration hierarchy.

I admit to living a more bourgeois life, though in my mind and heart I support the idea of the collective. I assume the majority of people involved are very outside-the-mainstream in many ways–i.e., the 21st century hippie. Does one need to become like them to participate? Would they accept the assistance of someone who isn’t likely to grow her own food, or who is very attached to his car, or who tries to be conscientious about recycling but doesn’t always succeed? I wonder.

In any case, their site is very intriguing.

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