Symbiosis. How we’ve grown together and continue to grow.
(the background of the Middle of the Map Forum)
The story begins in 2000 when Nathan Reusch and John Raux were neighbors in a Westport Apartment Complex. Almost every weekend for two years they were attending live music and involved in creative collaboration of some kind. In 2003 Nathan, Mike Russo, and Ricky Robinett started the music label “The Record Machine”(TRM). The first band signed was a metal quintet called the James Dean Trio(JDT).
Earlier in 2002 John started a communal gallery space called the Forum in the Crossroads next door to YJ’s.(where Peggy Noland’s space is today) David Ford gave him the haunting advice, “Don’t be afraid to start humble.” For two years, each month John hosted a new show for the public to participate in creating the art through a provided theme or medium. The first exhibit was a post-it note show (in which JDT played the opening). Making spaces for community overlap, expression, and collaboration was John’s passion and the essence of the Forum.
At the same time, Nathan was haunting YJ’s with his own musical performances. John hosted art inspired dodgeball games in the parking lot around the corner and Nathan would often provide the bands to play in the alley.
Late in 2005 John joined JDT as their “singer”, and in doing so, joined TRM as well. The band lasted another year and a half before calling it quits. Nathan continued to work for his father while filling all the inbetween spaces with album releases by emerging midwestern artists.
John hiked across America (Pacific Crest trail in 2007) and biked across the Himalayas (Nepal, India, Bhutan, 2009). He exhibited his journey/process based paintings everywhere except galleries (churches, coffeehouses, farmers markets, skate shops, charities, convention halls, architecture firms).
Nathan put on the first Middle of the Map Fest (MOTM) with INK magazine in 2011. It was born out of Nathan’s love of Kansas City and the convergence of culture that happens in the crossroads of America. John volunteered his time sitting at a table and giving away free t-shirts.
Later that year Nathan started DJing regularly at the Union while John was given studio space with BNIM architects downtown. He tried to start another art space (CoLaboratory) in the summer but tore two ligaments in his ankle, making the project stop before it really got started.
Last year Nathan came to John and asked him to think about incorporating the arts into Middle of the Map Fest. John had just finished reading David Bohm’s book “On Dialogue” with the BNIM book club. Bohm’s ideas resembled the open discussions he had experienced at PAPA fest(People Against Poverty and Apathy) in 2006.
The basic guidelines were to:
1. Suspend Judgement
2. Engage in Active Listening and Honest Sharing
3. Explore Questions through many perspectives
4. Make space for improvisation
5. Make time for understanding
5. Hold no agenda
John said “ok” and the Forum was reborn in 2012. (with a lot of help from Ink, the KC community and the MOTM sponsors). The Forum created a space to transform audiences into participants while inviting diverse thought and cultural leaders to shape, question and provoke the conversation’s direction. The content was dynamic and appropriate to the attendants. There was a buzz in the air. Everything wasn’t perfect or very produced but the conversations were much more than mere infotainment. They were alive.
After 2 days with over 40 panelists, 5 keynotes, 22 artists, 4 electronic performances and 8 films there was a lot of pressure to keep the momentum going. The Music Fest that happened at the same time blew up. There were packed out clubs all through Westport and the line to see some bands was over two blocks long. Nathan left his job to work on TRM and MOTM full time while John went back to making paintings and exploring (biking across Belgium and traveling to the Great Rift Valley in Kenya).
Now is about the Future.
(the world did not end in 2012 so Nathan, John, and their crew are at it again)
In 2013 MOTM Fest is stretching its wings and its schedule. The film section that was part of the Forum is now expanding and becoming its own Festival at the Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Kansas City(May 1-5). The music fest is happening two weeks prior to the Forum and is expanding to include the Uptown Theatre and an outdoor stage in Westport (April 4-6).
The Forum begins with an evening of multi media collaborative arts and performances at BridgePort in the Crossroads of Kansas City(April 17). Speakers and dialogues will fill the following two days with intention and surprise at OfficePort and StagePort(April 18-19). After each day, there will be awesome parties hosted by the neighborhood sponsors, Missouri Bank and Barkley.
Watch out world.
Was it mentioned that the price is insane? 100 bucks for 3 festivals. Music, the Forum, and Film. Nathan, John, the people at Ink and Alamo want to make the Middle of the Map Fest awesome and inexcusable for anyone in the midwest not to show up. The Missouri motto is “Show Me”… so here we go.