Goosed into the new year

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

A few years ago, a group of theater students in Grand Rapids, Michigan, got to like the feeling of working together. They passed around the various roles of putting on a production, like acting, costuming, set design and directing. Upon graduating, the group didn't want that relationship to end, so they set out to find a city they could call home.

The group set down roots in the Capital City over two years ago, and dubbed itself Wild Goose Creative.

"Of the six of us, about four of us had parents in the Midwest," said Jaqui Hoke, one of the founders, and a transplant from Canada's west coast. "We wanted to choose a city of a certain size that was not oversaturated with art. Columbus had a big enough arts community that we thought there would be an audience and other artists that would be receptive to us - someplace where we could become a nexus for artists all over the city."

At first, they met out of members' homes, periodically organizing public events at other locations, but broadening their scope well beyond theater into other performing arts and even culinary arts.

"Producing theater is very specific," said Hoke. "But those skills transfer to other kinds of events."

In September, Wild Goose opened up a space on Summit Street, a couple of doors down from the Rumba Cafe, where there are at least two gatherings each month. In the Third Thursdays series, one artist is featured to showcase and discuss current work. So far, that event has included various musicians, poets and a comedian.

"We always try to break down the barrier between audience and artist, so we have a question-and-answer period," says Hoke.

Too Many Cooks! is also held monthly in the space to showcase "the intersection between food and art." It has included Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni's ice cream, as well as beer crafters, cookie decorators and other culinary artists.

Other ad-hoc events have been similarly diverse, from skill workshops to gatherings of local crafters and a jazz poetry group. They also plan to secure schedule time and wall space for more visual arts exhibits in the coming year.

"We have four main tenets - community, education, creativity and hospitality - that go into everything we do," said Hoke, who hopes that the Summit Street space will continue to become more active. It will be available for rental and, at some point, begin to have regular operating hours.

On the group's first New Year's Eve in Columbus two years ago, they held a little party. Last year, after making several connections, they decided to put together a larger New Year's Festival at the last minute, which, Hoke said, "turned out to be incredible."

Thus, they began to make plans for this year's New Year's Festival way back in January. Spanning five days, it will feature a game show-style "Crafters' Death Match," musical performances, a variety of workshops, meals and tastings, a jazz poetry slam and more.

"This is one of my favorite events because you can see a presenter at one workshop, and by the next event you'll be working along with them on something they don't know anything about," said Hoke.

Although most of the events will be held at Wild Goose's own space, a few others will be out in the community, including a field trip to the Short North Gallery Hop. There will also be a screening of Mary Howard's film Swept Out, about Columbus' tent and shanty communities, which will be shown on New Year's Day at Studio 35 in partnership with the Chris Awards and the Ohio Arts Council.

The members of Wild Goose have found Columbus to be welcoming and receptive to new ideas and energy - much of what they had hoped to find in a city.

"Everyone is so willing to see this arts community come together and grow and thrive," said Hoke, noting that several of the events' sponsors are local independent businesses. "Especially in the economic times we're living in, it's great to see people really desire to have art be a part of the city's identity."