I visited Huntsville, AL in February for Thirty West Presents. Aside from the space and rocket museum, trendy eateries, libations, and relaxing weather, there is a thriving community of artists that I was anxious to indulge in. Below, I was able to interview an awesome human and her contribution to this community...
J: Welcome, Kimberly, to The Weekly Degree! It’s been awhile since I did an interview. For starters, tell us a bit about yourself.
K: Kimberly Casey, poet, community organizer, dog lover. I’ve been writing poetry since 6th grade and have been performing it in some capacity for a decade. I founded Out Loud HSV in 2014, in an effort to provide a place to inspire community outreach and activism through spoken word.
J: So, I know you graduated from Emerson College…are you originally from the New England area?
K: I am originally from Massachusetts, a really sweet small town called Brimfield.
J: On the note of Out Loud HSV, what compelled you to travel to the Huntsville area and set up such an organization?
K: I had some amazing friends with a studio at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment, and I had just graduated college and was in a dead-end office job. They invited me down to visit them and within two weeks I had a job at Lowe Mill. Once I settled in Huntsville permanently, I sought out a community of writers. When I didn’t find anything that stuck, I created a monthly open mic series which flourished over time into Out Loud HSV. Now we have a studio, poetry slams, workshops, youth meetups, storytelling events, and of course our monthly open mic series is still alive and well.
J: I was able to check out Lowe Mill and was blown away upon arrival. How does the community in Huntsville approach literature? What/who are major figures in your community?
K: Huntsville is a huge city but it’s sprawling, so there are a lot of small pockets of literary lovers throughout. Oakwood University and A&M have great spoken word groups, our local NPR affiliate showcases local writers on the Sundial Writers Corner, there’s the Huntsville Literary Association and more. As far as a major figure in our community, my biggest local literary inspiration is my friend TC, who is the founder of Coffeehouse Poets. TC is constantly working to use the power of poetry to give back to the community in majorly impactful ways. I really admire that.
J: It is quite a beautiful place and hearing about NPR and the universities give it even more value. What type of publications does Out Loud normally put out?
K: We put out a yearly anthology that welcomes submissions from everyone who has read at our events that past year. Everyone who submits gets at least one piece in, so it functions as a yearbook celebrating all our communities amazing voices. We’ve done a few zines, and I hope to expand more for the publications in the future.
J: Sweet! How has Lowe Mill fostered community in Huntsville as a whole?
K: Lowe Mill has been a staple in Huntsville from the start. The Flying Monkey Arts collective was the first official tenant of the building, bringing a weekly artist market and eventually building out studio spaces before the building had heat or AC. The Flying Monkey was and is dedicated to providing a space for the community to access art. Lowe Mill grew and grew to house more and more artists, and now is the largest privately-owned arts facility in the country. It’s an amazing space where the public can come and not just see the art of all different mediums but meet the artists and learn more about their processes—there’s an open-door policy so if you see a studio door open, head on in and meet an artist!
J: Even more of a reason to visit and re-visit! How did you like your experience with Tilde and Thirty West when I hosted the reading? Would you consider stocking Tilde print journals at Lowe Mill?
K: Amazing and absolutely! Our studio stocks many local pubs and self-published authors who have been part of our community in some way, and since your visit, you’re part of our community now! Print journals, Thirty West books, let's work that out! The reading was a blast. I love hearing new voices in new spaces, and we’d never done an event in that venue before. It was great.
J: Totally was and maybe it’ll happen again one day. What are some of your short and long-term goals as a creative staple in Huntsville?
K: We just accomplished a huge goal this year by getting our official non-profit status. More goals include more work within our local school systems & with youth programs such as the Boys & Girls club, all while continuing to provide a wide array of literary outlets to our city. Bringing in more and more touring poets and writers is an ongoing goal, as is working towards sending our yearly slam team to more and more competitions both regionally and nationally. We’ve got a strong structure and foundation, now we just keep building on it.
J: Love that reference. Lastly, what’s your favorite coffee drink at Alchemy?
K: An Iced Americano. No nonsense; just give me all the caffeine!
J: Tasty and effective. Thanks again for the interview! You can read Kimberly’s work in Tilde or check out some of the links below. See you next week on The Weekly Degree!