BRATTLEBORO -- A new couple in town wants to bring to Brattleboro a new vision for a gathering space and marketplace to support creative self-expression and holistic health practices.
But that vision is in the process of gestation.
"We're doing this a little bit by the seat of our pants," said Jacob Roberts, who is originally from Springfield, Mass.
The space he and his partner, Jessica Weston, want to open up is located at 14 Elm St., most recently occupied by Turning Point.
"This is going to be a mixed-use venue," said Roberts.
On Monday, Aug. 20, from 6 to 8 p.m., he and Weston are hosting an open house at Equilibrium -- A Positive Lifestyle Environment. The open house is an opportunity for folks who might be interested in utilizing the space for art, retail, performances, dance or movement classes and holistic health services.
On Tuesday, Roberts and Weston were in the building, making sure it is ready for Monday's open house. It has received a new coat of paint, the windows have been polished to appear as if there is no glass in them and the walls are bare of all adornments.
"We want to keep this space as blank as possible," said Roberts.
As their two dogs genially paced around the empty room, he and Weston described how the building might best be utilized.
"This room," said Weston, opening a door on a smaller room near the building's entrance, "could be a holistic health sanctuary."
But that's not all. When visitors come to the building, immediately upon entering they will step into a small cafe featuring regionally sourced gluten-free, vegetarian and dairy-free food. The facility could also be used to give cooking demonstrations, she said.
But the main space, which now echoes with footsteps and the sounds of dogs padding around the room, is meant to be a blank slate, waiting for a collaborative vision to fill it up.
"A lot of artists are looking for a space to show their work," said Weston.
Roberts called the space "an incubator," not only for established artists, but also for those hoping to break out.
"We'd like to help young people and nurture the up and coming," he said.
Roberts and Weston most recently resided in Ithaca, N.Y. Prior to coming to Windham County, they spent some time in Belize. Currently they are helping out with a homesteading project in Halifax and spending some time at Lilac Ridge Farm, learning the ins and outs of sustainable living.
Roberts said when they first came to Brattleboro, they immediately fell in love with the people and the community's "vibe and potential."
"We stumbled on this space," he said, which had recently been purchased by a pair of artists from New York City who hope to open a workshop on the lower floor. Eventually the couple hopes to convert the first floor into living space, but short-term, they were intrigued by the ideas of Roberts and Weston and agreed to let them use it.
"This is meant to be a six-month pilot," said Roberts, who has curated art shows and hosted fashion events. "We want to grow little roots and keep focused on the near term, but not shy away from long-term conversations."
He and Weston hope to open the building up to creative types within a 100-mile radius of Brattleboro.
"We didn't come here to run a business," said Roberts. "But we had some conversations with folks in the community and received a lot of support for the idea."
They also hope to work with other artists and organizations in the area, such as the New England Youth Theatre and the Boys and Girls Club of Brattleboro.
"We don't want to be a competitor," said Roberts. "We want to further enhance the community."
"How can we help each other?" added Weston.
While they don't want to see the space become a "clubhouse," said Roberts, they see it as a gathering space and a place for those without a lot of capital to share in the cost of participation.
"We want it to be a blend of a cozy hangout and a professional space," he said.
In the early 20th century, the building was first used as a manufacturing facility. It has an open, 3,000-square-foot plan with tall ceilings and large-scale warehouse windows.
Bob Audette can be reached at email@example.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.