This project is brimming with genuine enthusiasm. Seriously. Until the Lucky 7 Foundation awarded us a grant last month, everyone but Cali was working for free, and Frances was actually paying out-of-pocket for a lot of what needed doing. So what's attracted all of these folks from all of these different backgrounds to the project? What do they get out of it? Why is it worth doing? On this, the last day of our Indiegogo campaign, we thought that was worth discussing.
Tyler DeFriece (Social Media & Crowdfunding): I am drawn to this project for many reasons. Being a part of Team Demo Hugo allows me to work with people from interdisciplinary backgrounds, and I see great opportunity to learn from these folks. This group is humming with "do-ers" who have found a way to actively engage with the community and work together to make our shared vision a reality. I am also personally interested in the effects of urban change on the arts and the LGBT community in Capitol Hill. It is amazing to be able to see a phenomenon affecting our city and then follow one part of it. We get to illustrate a microcosm of a changing Seattle and literary scene—how cool is that? And of course, I love Richard Hugo House, and I want us to properly usher in its coming transformation.
Natalie Hillerson (Geography Researcher): I could probably say I'm part of Team Demo Hugo for many reasons. I'm a writer, and have never really grown roots in a particular city or state—so of course I'm enthralled by two of TDH's themes: poetry and the transience of place. But it was at a team meeting in early November that I realized why I truly was involved in this project. As I looked around the table at Frances's house, I saw my peers and friends engaged and obviously passionate about making this documentary. I found it so encouraging and comforting to know I was surrounded by people who care deeply about the Hugo House, its remembrance, and each other. I felt at home. And while this documentary is important for many social and political reasons, I think its importance lies in what it has given me: a stable, compassionate cohort in the midst of urban change.
Flora Tempel (Communications): As a young writer, I was advised to look through the classes at Hugo House and I ignored the teen classes. My parents always dropped little 14 year old me in front of Hugo House in the evening or on a Saturday afternoon and would pick me back up, exhausted and excited, a few hours later from a class full of people far more educated and mature than me. Hugo House was a magical place, so mysterious and unique, full of secrets and lessons for me to discover. As a more serious writer I have found Hugo House to be a constant source of inspiration and support. I'm drawn to participate in the project as a writer who experiments with narratives and memory. I hope to bring ideas about how to shape the narratives we are juggling and help us focus the project on the most important ideas. I believe it is imperative to tell the history of Hugo House and Capitol Hill as writing communities and cities change with our increasingly heterogeneous and interconnected society.
Lisa Jaech (Animator): I was drawn to the project because I love working with both documentary and poetry in my animations and this film conveniently combines the two. It also just so happens that I was around Hugo House since the beginning, so it’s personally significant to me as a building. Finally, like most native Seattleites, I’m struggling with the way this city is changing. I think it’s a really complex issue and it’s more than worth it to start a dialogue about it.
Ian Lucero (Editor): Well I don’t have a huge connection to the house but most people I know have heard of it. Whether they be writers, actors or musicians, they’ve all gone through its doors. I remember seeing a music show or two there back in the late 90’s. That the Hugo House has touched so many of my friends and peers is enough motivation for me to work on this project.
Dandi Meng (Archivist): One of the reasons I joined this project is because I’m at a crossroads in terms of how I relate to literature—I’m attracted both to the formal qualities that give it shape and texture and to the material consequences of its existence and circulation. These two features of literature coincide in the events that will be documented by this film, and while the first of these is something that I’ve explored in school and feel confident in pursuing further by myself, the second is trickier. How we represent the Hugo House in the context of its founders, its namesake, its time, its teardown, its neighborhood, its city, its guests, and its passers-by is a crucial concern, and one that is very much under construction (pardon the pun). As such, I’m also here to try and grapple with what it means to tell a story about the social life of literature compellingly and responsibly, to make room for its complexities while still holding ourselves accountable to them.
Cali Kopczick (Assistant Director): One of the more immediate reasons that I'm in the project is the chance to get to know the incredible folks on the team as well as the incredible thinkers and doers who've been involved with Hugo House past and present. The more abstract reason why I'm involved with this project is that I grew up in a rural area, and the churning, swirling, electric flux of a city is something to behold. And there's something very affectionate and very powerful at not getting intimidated by that scale and that change. I think it's ethically important (and rewarding) to know the city you're in so that you can navigate it and propel it in positive ways. I'm hoping we can serve as a template for folks in other cities with this project.
Stephen Silha (Producer): Where the House Was is an invitation to all of us to get in closer touch with our own inner and outer spaces, much as Richard Hugo did in his poetry. Frances McCue is inviting us to think differently about history, gentrification, personal expression, love and loss. I made the poetic documentary BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton to inspire people to “follow their own weird.” When I learned that Frances was making a documentary about the demolition of Hugo House, and all the stories swirling around that literary vortex on Capitol Hill, I said, “How can I help?” I’m proud to be part of Team Demo Hugo as a producer. It’s helping me follow my weird. I hope you’ll join the team and add poetic resonance to the conversation!
Mara Potter: Although I knew little about Hugo House when I became involved with this team, I've always been very emotionally tied to place, and I think it's important to recognize and record where we've been. This project promotes an appreciation of the past while keeping an optimistic outlook on the future, making the most of something that can't last forever. I'm excited to work with a group of motivated peers on such an ambitious goal.
Anisa Jackson: I was drawn to Team Demo Hugo by the project's multi-headed nature to explore the preservation of collaborative artistic and community spaces amidst rapid and unsynchronized development. My research as a geographer and visual artist works at the intersection of urbanism, art, and social justice. As someone particularly interested in artistic intervention during ongoing processes of gentrification and development in urban environments, Where the House Was, has given me the chance to collaborate with a group of talented and passionate individuals to reflect on how Seattle is changing and what we can do about it.
Allison Charoni: I grew up in Seattle and I know the protective bitterness that comes with every new building erected in one of our classic neighborhoods. I've seen high-rises spring up across the city and I've worried about what we've lost with each shiny new addition. Sometimes it feels like a lot. Hugo House has meant different things to me throughout my life, but its presence has always been consistent. To me, the loss of the Hugo House space carries a lot of weight; it could create the future for the rest of the art spaces in Seattle, or the rest of Capitol Hill. I want to see it through right. The richness of Seattle's art history means so much to where we are today and I think it is important that we refuse to forget that. I can't think of a better way to explore the deepness of a place than with the guidance of Richard Hugo. I see my work with Team Demo Hugo as a way to pay homage to the past, but also as a way to start moving forward and I hope what we finds guides us towards a future with an even stronger arts community.