Jerico is a community of creative entrepreneurs, makers and artists founded by Krystal and Jeb Gast. Located in three historic buildings at the industrial edge of the Edison neighborhood in Kalamazoo, the community is home to 23 shared and individual studio spaces currently occupied by a broad range of creative operations including: an electric scooter company, a design consultancy, video and music production studios, a photography studio, coffee shop, yoga studio, and more. We spoke with Krystal Gast to better understand how they continue the tradition of innovation in the space and how they create resilience by being a place for the creative community to connect.
Q: What do you do?
A: I am the co-owner of Jerico, a community arts organization in Kalamazoo, MI. I work together with my husband, Jeb, and our Events Coordinator, Margot, to provide physical space and other opportunities to artists, makers and creative entrepreneurs in Southwest Michigan. We occupy three historical buildings on the industrial edge of Kalamazoo’s largest neighborhood. Our workshops, faire’s, gallery, and private resident studios provide unique opportunities for artistic and creative experiences to the greater Kalamazoo community.
Q: How did you get there?
A: I can’t help but dream up ways that artists can transform a place. When we purchased the building in 2014, we suddenly had thousands of square feet of space that we had no plans for. We immediately imagined a sort of campus filled with artists working, collaborating, beautifying and attracting visitors to appreciate and engage with the art and events happening there. Being in spaces like these always inspired me and offered experiences that I wouldn’t have found anywhere else. To be in the position to create a space like that for others was very exciting.
Q: What impact are you striving for?
A: I hope to do good and engage with people and leave things better than how I came to them. Connecting with people and creating things together is an empowering and uplifting experience. I’d like to provide an opportunity for experiences like these for others and for Jerico to be a place where people come to feel inspired, empowered and uplifted. I’d like it to be a place where people engage with each other in ways that are meaningful and positive.
Q: What does a resilient future mean to you?
A: It means that we acknowledge and accept the mistakes that have been made over generations and focus our energy on doing good and only taking what we need and giving more than we are accustomed to.
Q: What barriers are you facing in your work?
A: I hesitate to say financial barriers because, when I really think about it, we are very fortunate to have this space and do what we do. I think we struggle because we want to provide more to our residents, guests, and neighborhood. So, being organized as a for-profit business rather than a non-profit, offers some disadvantages. We rely on generating revenue rather than philanthropy to operate. Small businesses who do work that is based on community building often struggle financially. We’re not selling a product, other than renting our studios – we’re selling moments to connect and engage. That’s a very difficult service to survive off of. There’s a misconception that large buildings with multiple tenants = lots of revenue. This is not the case. The over 100 year old set of buildings are not cookie cutter, easily maintained spaces. They require a lot of maintenance and unique retrofits to do what we do with them.
Q: What would we find unique about your organization and the way you operate?
The sheer ability in our very small team to do what we do and accomplish what we have in such a short time! It feels like (and maybe is) a very grassroots dream project being run as a business.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Come visit us! We host events as Jerico all throughout the year and our residents do as well. Some of our residents have regular business hours and we also have a large native garden on our property that is a joy to walk through. If you are an artist, reach out to us for ways to collaborate! We hope to offer artist residencies in the near future and would love to start a list of interested folks! We also offer seasonal poster contests, gallery exhibitions and annual art auction benefit events. We are always looking for public artworks to add to our property or the neighborhood as well.
In this series, we highlight individuals and organizations that we have observed working toward creating resilient futures — anticipating and provoking atomic change toward sustainable outcomes for their communities and the world.