Champaign-Urbana’s Hatch Festival is the only creative reuse art festival in Illinois. Now in its third year, Hatch is produced by The I.D.E.A. Store, a creative reuse marketplace that serves as an earned-income enterprise of the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation (CUSF). buzz talked with Gail Rost, Co-Chair of Hatch, to find out what makes it so unique.
buzz: As a lead-in to talking about Hatch, what exactly is The I.D.E.A. Store?
Gail Rost: The I.D.E.A. Store is a retail store that sells items for creative reuse—and sometimes very practical reuse—that might otherwise have gone to the landfills… The money that’s earned from the I.D.E.A. store goes back to support the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation—we call it CUSF—and that supports K-12 (education) in Champaign-Urbana. So it’s what we call an earned-income enterprise. It was designed to support public (education), and it sells old stuff or what might be trash or what might be thrown away and (sent) to the landfill to earn that money.
buzz: It sounds like it serves a very useful purpose in the community.
GR: Absolutely, the community’s just been very supportive of it. It’s in its fourth year, and it’s doing very well. We’re definitely filling a niche here.
buzz: Good to hear! Now… what is Hatch? And how did the idea to have a creative reuse festival come about? Did you just think this was the best way to promote The I.D.E.A. Store’s role as a creative reuse marketplace?
GR: Exactly. One of the things that we wanted to do to ensure the sustainability of the store was to create a market so that people would realize that they can… work with and use creative reuse items. So we needed to go through an educational process with the community to help them understand what (creative reuse) is. One of the things that’s really fun is to do something like a “Trashion Show.” The whole festival itself has erupted from that…
buzz: It sounds like it implements it in a better way [than what we usually see with these kinds of events] because it allows people to access it—the idea of creative reuse—in a way that they might think is more applicable to their lives, separate from charity or (even community).
GR: Yeah, and you know that’s really important. We’ve heard so many times about recycling but reuse is actually a little better than recycling if you want to get right down to it. And what it does, by teaching people to think about objects in a different way, is take away the punitive response. I mean, you get scolded all the time, right? “Oh, you’re going to throw that away, you better recycle.” We don’t want to make people feel bad. We want to give them the time to realize that there are actually some very useful things that can be done with items that usually end up in the garbage. So this is one way to make it fun and to raise the profile of I.D.E.A., and that’s what Hatch really is all about. We also have an exhibition of artistic items that are really high quality… art pieces by many artists. Then we have a fair, which is where crafters and… multiple item-type designers are making things for sale. The fair also looks at the world differently with creative reuse – everything from clothing to jewelry to household items and that kind of stuff. And then we’ve got a music night where people are making music with electric waste, so that’s going to be really cool. It isn’t just “junk.”
buzz: Yeah, one of the things that I really appreciate about things like Hatch is that: A lot of emphasis today, with the Capitalist society that we live in, is on the new. Presenting something that we are able to reuse in a way that looks just as functional (and is just as functional) as something new is something that we definitely need.
GR: Yeah, no kidding. I mean, there is a finite limit to what we can create. And if we don’t learn how interrupt the waste stream with “reuse,” there (are) going to be serious consequences (to) that. I think… we haven’t made that (idea) accessible to everybody. Back in the day, with our older people—especially during World War II—“reuse” was common. There weren’t many new things being churned out. And you know, our grandparents… would reuse clothing over and over again until there was nothing left. We are not that society anymore, we’re a consumptive society, so it’s important that we understand that we’re going to be mining our own garbage. And in fact, that’s already happening.
buzz: Very cool. I like the tie-in to history there. As a (very) loose segue from history, I was wondering how this year’s festival was (going to be) different from the two that you’ve had in the past.
GR: A lot of the things are the same because we know that they’re working. We’ve got our festival, we have the art fair on the 14 (of March), then we have our exhibition that runs for two weeks and our Artists-in-Residence. This year, we are bringing mostly new artists to the whole event. We have a new Artist-in-Residence that we’ve never had before, who places an emphasis on jewelry, which we’ve never done. We’re (also) doing what’s called a Hatch Clatch and that is going to be an event just for art teachers at the store. We’re bringing in a lecturer to talk about reuse and showing a couple of fun things that they can do with their students.
buzz: One of the things that impresses me about the entire event is how many people you’ve been able to coordinate to come to Champaign-Urbana. How much work does that entail?
GR: It’s a lot of work and is all done by volunteers. We raise money from supporters to help bring our Artists-in-Residence, but all of the work is being done by volunteers – all of the graphic work, all of the coordination, all of the schedules. We have a community of very dedicated people who are willing to help. I throw that out there, too, we are definitely looking for a couple more people to serve on the steering committee, so if they’re interested, they should give me a call or send me an email… In terms of the number of people who come, we know we have a small target population in this area so we spread it out over time so the same people can participate in all of our events. We hope to attract new people too.
buzz: In attracting new people and continuing to attract new people, where do you see Hatch—or indeed, The I.D.E.A. Store—going from here?
GR: Well, I think creative reuse will eventually become a routine for all people. And they’ll come to the store, not so much as a novelty—“Wow, I can’t believe they sell these things”—to “Gee, I need to go get this because they have stuff that I want, and they have quality items.” In terms of the festival, I think the most important part of it is probably the education (events). People will always need to learn about this, so I (think) that we’ll continue to work on ways we can demystify the whole creative reuse process.
buzz: In one line, could you explain why readers of buzz Magazine should go to the Hatch Creative Reuse Fesitval?
GR: Well, it’s the only thing like this happening in the state of Illinois! How could you possibly miss it?
The Hatch Festival began on Feb. 26 and runs through March 14.