It started as a conversation between writers/partners/creative-thinkers/world travelers, Joshua Heller and Nicole Kelly.
The idea came to them last summer; a community of artists and free-thinkers co-existing temporarily, to share new experiences, and impart their unique talent, collectively within a group of people they may not otherwise encounter. In a location let’s say, outside their comfort zone.
The couple was moving to Germany at the time, to test out this experiment of a temporary, communal living environment, but the plan didn’t quite come together in Berlin (location and language were big factors).
But Moscow was prime turf apparently, as the concept came to fruition one year later, in the United States, in Moscow, Idaho.
Mostly through social media and word of mouth, Mr. Heller and Ms. Kelly were able to gather a small band of committed individuals, about 20 in total, who spent between 4-8 weeks living in the community, during July and August of 2012.
‘Summer Commune’ was an idea born of wanting to, “connect with like-minded and creative people,” says co-organizer Nicole Kelly.
Mr. Heller and Ms. Kelly envisioned this collective, consisting of people who maybe thought they could only find true peers in urban areas, like Los Angeles or New York, learning they have more in common with folks living in smaller communities around the nation than they might think.
True to that instinct, the participants of Summer Commune and Moscow’s residents met, socialized, and in some cases became friends.
Through field trips and events, like live music, or comedy nights at local bars and coffee houses, the ‘communers,’ (dubbed so by Mr. Heller, in our recent conversation) experienced a taste of local life and the people who live it, on a regular basis. The locals, in turn were introduced to some fresh faces and ideas.
Ms. Kelly called the undertaking “a productive, invaluable, life-long learning experience.”
The somewhat unexpected result was a boost to the local economy of Moscow, and an endorsement, and invitation to continue to creatively help promote local tourism, from the Mayor.
Speaking to Mr. Heller about the impact Summer Commune had on the city, Mayor Nancy Chaney said the concept, and its resulting contribution to Moscow’s economy was “something more clever than any marketing campaign.”
The choice of Moscow, Idaho wasn’t exactly random. Mr. Heller did some research into cities that would be conducive to this type of summer-sublet-living; namely, college towns.
The University of Idaho is in Moscow, and Washington State University is in Pullman, Washington, about twenty minutes away.
The small, rural community set within the Palouse of Idaho and Washington was attractive for aesthetic reasons as well.
Personally, Ms. Kelly and Mr. Heller admitted they learned a lot from the experience, including how to manage a large group of people, produce events, and communicate more effectively.
Ideally, they will create a new commune next summer, in a different community, while encouraging others across the country to do the same.
Think they might be on to something?