What I like most about the Lookout Arts Center (AKA The Quarry) is that it’s an amazing gypsy camp of old buses, trailers, tents, and RVs. It is a constantly shifting community of nomads, performers, and tinkerers. Some people are owners and more consistent, while others are temporary participants there for a day or a few months. I would describe it as an intentional community of artists – mostly performers of the circus sort, but also musicians, visual artists, etc. Located at an old quarry, the space is incredible, with a water slide, camping, warehouse space – all of which make up an epic festival/gathering site. To top it off for Sh’Bang Festival they added in a stage, saloon façade, soapbox track, carnival games (like Beer-Smasher and Knife-Throwing), vendors, a sideshow tent, and a mob of inspiring performers.
We arrived without much of the quarry knowing what we were up to. My dear ol’ friends from Fruit Tree Tour, Andrea and Bootstrap, had mentioned Sh’Bang to me at Oregon Country Fair and that was enough to convince me to bring tea. Bootstrap immediately took us on a tour of the site, giving us some okay options for where the tea bus could go. It wasn’t until a suggestion was made for us to set up at the wishing-well that things became sweet. I had been to the wishing-well a couple years earlier and knew it was an amazing spot. Sure enough, we drove up the steep “road” to that beautiful spot overlooking the quarry.
Atop the cliff (which we dubbed “steep hill”), and amongst the underused rockwork patio and wishing well, we set up the tea zone. With me were my dear friend Ally (remember her from Rootstalk?) and a traveling musician and bike tourist named Pilgrim. With their help, and the help of Bootstrap and others, we created a super comfy space with carpets, pillows, tables, and waste-vegetable-oil-powered lanterns, topped off with a parachute, and enclosed by the tea bus. One of the quarry-dwellers said we “activated” the space. Everyone agreed that it was an underused space that needed something like what we did…
“Tea here now,” one sign proclaimed. Another said, “Always open, never closed,” and it was true. The festival went until all hours of the morning, and the day started with someone wandering up and me yelling, “Always open, never closed.” They’d come aboard Edna and squirt some hot water into a cup and steep themselves a hot cuppa. Our conversation would rouse Ally from her tent nearby and thus our days began.
First, make sure there’s hot water and tea. Second, clean up the zone. Third, make sure there was sun tea brewing. Fourth, eat. Fifth, reflect on the craziness of the night before. Sixth, enjoy the day. The days included swimming (clothing optional), music on stage, soapbox races, carnival games, etc. The evenings were our busiest time. Amongst circus and sideshow acts, music and burlesque, and other nighttime shenanigans, people would wander up to the tea bus to soak in the warm fire, hot tea, acoustic tunes, and an intimate vibe.
It came and went fast, but the core community that was there from set up to tear down was what really set me off. I was buzzing on the beauty of the people. They were all talented, intelligent, and good-looking, but without all the ego that one might expect from such a group. They worked hard and played hard. A good combo. Thanks, peeps!