Josh Heller and 30+ of his closest friends are spending the summer in Moscow, ID. In order to escape the stresses and expenses of big city life, they have converged on the small college town (population 23,000) for a summer of day hikes, art projects, and general summer fun. Working with the town to organize public events, the communers hope to create a temporary community of creative types that will hopefully recur in the coming years. We spoke with Josh as he was setting up shop in his new home town.
MM: How’s it going so far? What are you doing in terms of organization? Is there a schedule?
JH: I’ve been meeting with business leaders and city council to talk about venues and places that we can have events. So we have some more formal things that we are working on actively. We have a kickoff event scheduled for June 16th. [Communer] Nicole Kelly is a fiction writer – she’s been helping set up a fiction reading series. Christin Lee, who’s been really helpful, is trying to set up a gallery showcase for studio art. So we have those kinds of things.
For things that are a little bit less formal, we really want for people who are coming to make it a participatory event. So if you have a skill or an interesting background, we want to have presentations or talks to involve other people and what they’re doing. Those things are still in the process, based in a lot of ways on who’s coming.
Then we have the very casual, which is pot lucks and happy hours and camping trips.
MM: Tell me a little bit about the launch party.
JH: Well, this summer, we’re trying to make three big events that are incorporating the summer communers and the local community. By the way, we weren’t sure where we were gonna go, and choosing Moscow was just the best decision. The people here have been so supportive and so excited for us to be here. So for the first party that we’re going to do, it’s a meet and greet and way to introduce the people who have just arrived to the local community. There’s a university here, so there’s already an academic community and an arts community.
MM: What are your aspirations for the summer? What would you love to see happen?
JH: The project is grounded in economic realities. If you live in the Mission right now your rent will be seven or eight hundred dollars for a room. Right now I’m living in a three bedroom house for 650 dollars. So, in the center of the country we can live way more affordably. The goal for summer commune is to help people realize that if you’re a creative person, especially in this era of mobile work, you don’t need to live in Brooklyn or Los Angeles or San Francisco. My hope is that we can create communities that we appreciate in places that are not as expensive to rent. And then obviously if you’re talking specifically about the regions where creative people live, we have gentrification and other things that are the result of this economic push. And so we’re just looking for alternatives to that.
So my aspiration would be that hopefully this idea would spread and people could do it on their own and do their own thing wherever they want.
I think it has potential to, at a minimum, be just a pretty fun summer and, at maximum, change the dynamics for the way that we interact as a global community, or something like that. [Laughs.] The possibilities are endless.
We’ll check in with Josh as the summer progresses to see how it’s going. They’ve got a Facebook page and a Tumblr if you’d like to follow along. So hey, if you just lost your job or got evicted, or if you’re just looking for a change, head to Moscow! Hang out!