Vera Stories ❤

The community members who shape Vera, both past and present, go on to pursue their dreams and shape the world beyond our walls. We’d like to take a moment each week to shine a spotlight on one of the many hardworking people and organizations who have helped shaped Vera and been shaped BY Vera.

THIS WEEK’S VERA STORY IS…

 – Rosa Hillary –

“Vera has introduced me to people who have taught me important lessons and made me feel less alone in my life and struggles.” 
-Rosa Hillary

Connection to Vera
Volunteer and frequent concert-goer.

How would you describe The Vera Project to someone who has never heard of it? 
The Vera Project is an inviting, charming, community-oriented all ages music venue and art gallery.

What is your favorite aspect of Vera? 
The people! The volunteers, staff, bands, showgoers, even the people who wander in mid-shift asking “what is this?” I think everyone is really enriched by the environment and as a result all the people who come through are very sweet!

What is your favorite Vera memory?
My favorite Vera memory was probably this one time a guy came in with two tickets and flowers alone. His date had ditched him but he came anyway. He gave his extra ticket to the next person in line and his flowers to us box office volunteers.

What does Vera mean to Seattle?
I think Vera creates a space where people, especially youth, can see great art for fair prices and just be themselves. Almost everyone I know has heard of Vera and appreciates it for this.

 

– Rebecca Armstrong –

“Vera empowers youth to be leaders and provides a space for young artists to be seen and heard. I think everyone I’ve ever worked with at Vera has the same deep love and respect for their time there, and the friends they made and keep from that time.” 
-Rebecca Armstrong

Connection to Vera
Former Gallery Committee Chair, Former Show Volunteer. Currently works in New York as an Educator at the Whitney Museum. 

What does Vera mean to you? 
Vera is a community and a truly magical place. It’s a space and a family that changes as the city and youth do, but is rooted in the values of creativity, empowerment, leadership, and supporting local artists and musicians. It’s a place that provides a platform for young people to have a voice, fill leadership roles, and feel supported to pursue the arts, and get involved in the arts community in a real tangible way. 

How would your life be different without Vera? 
Vera was the first place I had a leadership role in the arts. I was empowered and felt encouraged. I started learning more about myself, what I was good at and enjoyed, and I learned more about the nonprofit world, how things happen, and how people collaborate effectively. This information is invaluable and still informs and guides the work I do today. 

After Vera, I went on to work in commercial galleries in Seattle, moved to New York for graduate school at the Pratt Institute, and now I am a museum educator at the Whitney Museum. I continue to care deeply about engagement in the arts, how it can act as a catalyst for communities to come together, and the invaluable role of artists and arts education to our society. These are the values that guide my career post-grad, and I don’t know if I would have figured out how important they are to me if it hadn’t been for my time at Vera. 

What is your favorite Vera memory? 
I remember one night when I was leaving Vera– It was cold and dark, and snowing, and the lights from McCaw Hall were turning the snow all these pastel colors. I was going to the bus stop to head home and I remember feeling really happy and inspired, knowing I’d started getting involved with something that just felt really right.

 

– Vincent Nijenhuis

If you are younger and you are questioning things like sexuality or gender, those things are constantly being questioned outside in the world.  But Vera is a space where your identity will not be questioned, where you simply can be.
-Vincent Nijenhuis

Connection to Vera: Current Marketing Intern, Current Admin/Archival Intern, Co-chair of the Booking Committee, Steering Committee Member, and Show Volunteer

How did you find Vera? 
I went to a show. I saved up for two weeks just so I could go to that one show. A friend at the show told me if I wanted to see more shows, I should just volunteer at the Vera Project. And that’s how I got involved! 

What is your favorite Vera memory? 
My favorite show, weirdly enough, was Why Don’t We, a boy band. I loved the unfiltered passion of the people at that show (who were all under 18 except two people). Just to see that enthusiasm for something– and it’s not being judged, and it’s not being shamed. You just couldn’t help but smile. I know I went through the same thing when I saw Courtney Love when I was 15 or 16. 

How would your life be different without Vera? 
I don’t think I would be involved in the music industry or want to go into the career that I want to go into. I want to be a publicist at a label. It sounds like a hyperbole, but I genuinely don’t think I would be on track to do what I want to do right now without Vera. 

 

– Aubrie Kalis –

aubrie-smaller

“The Vera Project is a place I am proud to call my second home. When I volunteered at my first show, I didn’t realize how much my life would change for the better. Vera is a place that I can feel like an equal with any group of people, as well as giving me the ability to voice my opinion and have it be heard. Some of my closest friendships have begun through Vera, and I am always meeting new folks who positively impact my life and shape me into the person I want to become. As I continued to work more with Vera, the little venue became more and more important to me. I would volunteer more often, and now, you can catch me here every week. Moving up from a simple show volunteer, to a member, and then becoming the Volunteer Coordinator as well as co-chairing the Steering Committee- it has all deepened my love for this small space.”

Age: 17
Occupation: Student, barista, Age at Vera: 15-present
How are/were you involved: Steering committee chair & Volunteer coordinator intern

 

– Elizabeth Mazé –

2016-elizabeth-maze

“I accidentally went to the first Vera Project show at the Local 46 in Belltown, not knowing anything about the organization, but just because the Murder City Devils, Blood Brothers, and Botch were playing. I would walk a very short path over semi-hot coals to see that show again. That lineup is indicative of what The Vera Project has been about from the beginning: giving amazing arts access to people of all ages. Instead of having to hang outside in the parking lot listening to the show we couldn’t get into, Vera created consistent all-ages music access in a city that vilified youth engagement and made it financially prohibitive for venues to throw events that allowed minors in the building. I immediately wanted to be a part of Vera.

I’ve had the incredible fortune of being welcomed into this community and shown so much love and appreciation through my trajectory as a volunteer, member, intern, and staff member. Vera helped shape me as a young person, encouraging my growth and development and interests, and then welcomed me back as an adult who wanted to help cultivate and steward an environment that meant so much to me. We have a rare and delicate space that welcomes everyone, allows people to find community, encourages growth in uncomfortable and important ways, and lets people choose their own adventure. Vera was born out of political advocacy and continues to provide vital services to our Seattle arts community by exalting youth voices and creating an equitable space for people to learn & grow. Vera is important and impactful and I’m so grateful it exists.” 

 
Age: 25 forever
Occupation: Office & HR Manager for The Derschang Group
Age at Vera: 12-present
How are/were you involved: Everything! Volunteer, member, intern, staff

 

 

– Jessica Schollmeyer –

2016-jessica-schollmeyer

“I’ve gone from volunteering, to becoming a member, to joining the steering committee, to becoming chair of steering, to finally getting hired as a staff member about 5 months ago. When I walked through the doors on day one, I had no idea how important and influential Vera would be to my life.

I’ve had some of my best memories with Vera, and it’s all because of the people I’ve met here.The volunteers and members here are what really make the organization. They are kind, supportive, accepting, adaptable, and filled with love for Vera (as well as love for memes and dogs). It was incredible to come into the space and not have my age matter at all. I was respected by people younger and older than me, and trusted to take on responsibility despite my age. It’s given me confidence to take on the world, and make my influence known, despite any internalized barriers. It has shown me that I don’t have to settle for the way things have always been, I can dream and improve.” 

Age: 18
Occupation: Participation Coordinator at The Vera Project
Hometown: Shoreline, WA
Age when at Vera: 16-present
How are/were you involved: started as a volunteer, now a staff member!

 

– Barsuk Records –

barsuk records (smaller)

“Everyone at Barsuk remembers not being able to go see our favorite bands, or really any bands, because there were no all-ages venues where we lived. The Vera Project is what we all wished for and when we were growing up, and we’re so pleased we can help it continue to grow and thrive here in Seattle. Any art and music scene needs to be constantly re-engergized by the next generation of artists and musicians. Without it, any art scene would dry up and collapse. We want Seattle to continue to be one of the great creative centers of music and art, and The Vera Project serves a vital function of creating a positive place for youth to learn about and participate in a thriving creative environment. Viva Vera!”

Barsuk Records, Seattle-based independent record label since 1994
www.barsuk.com

– Amy Piñon –

amy pinon

Age: 24
Occupation: Media and Documentation at Arts Corps, Ukulele Teaching Artist
Hometown: Burien
Current Home: Seattle
Age when at Vera: 19 – Present
How were you involved: Current FOH audio engineer, audio instructor, Audio Committee Member, and Board Member

“Vera is where I found my voice. After meandering around in pretty much all of the committees, I found a home in the audio committee, and now I’m on the Board of Directors so I’m a board liaison for that group. I know that I would not be so involved and connected in the arts community in Seattle without Vera. Every interaction I’ve had within Vera has shaped me in some way, and I have made so many true and sincere friends. I just can’t imagine where my life would be without Vera for all the people I’ve met through it, all the opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten without it, and the personal growth I’ve experienced just because this amazing place – this community – exists.”

Check out what Amy has been up to here: http://www.artscorps.org/2014/09/arts-corps-spotlight-amy-pinon/

– SHANNON HALBERSTADT –

shannon halberstadt

Age: 45
Occupation: Executive Director at Artist TrustHometown: Seattle
Current Home: Renton
Age when at Vera: 30 and up

“There are so many memorable experiences at Vera. It was central to my life for so long. The first show at the newly completed Seattle Center venue was huge for us. The Vera team had worked so hard to bring this dream to fruition. We were seriously sweeping up the last of the construction dust just hours before doors opened. It felt great to see the space we had worked so hard to create full of people, art and music. When the Vera Project first started, it was a major force in Seattle and difficult NOT to be involved. It was gorgeous mashup of art, music and activism, and something people were eager to support. I was working at the Old Fire House in Redmond at the time, and ties were very tight between the two all-ages venues. Kate Becker was a great leader at both venues back then. I’ve met so many people through the Vera Project who have changed life. It’s truly a special place full of inspired, smart, fun people.

Check out what Shannon has been up to at Artist Trust here: http://washingtonfilmworks.org/washington-filmworks-news/artist-trust-a-new-resource-for-washington-filmmakers

 

– RAYA LEARY –

Raya Leary (smaller)

Age: 23
Occupation: Outreach & Promotions Coordinator at 4Culture, Show Manager at Vera
Hometown: Seattle
Current Home: Seattle
Age when at Vera: 16-present

“When I came to that first show, I didn’t actually have enough money get a ticket. Someone from the venue gave me a stamp and let me in and I had the most amazing time. When I found out that you could volunteer there I jumped at the opportunity, I wanted to repay that kindness. After volunteering, steering, and show managing at Vera over the years I’ve also met some of the most important people in my world.”

Check out what Raya has been up to at 4Culture! She is also a co-founder of risograph printing and publishing company Cold Cube Press.

 

 

– LIZ PFRIEM –

LIZ PFRIEM

Age: 28
Occupation: Assistant Music Supervisor at Agoraphone Music Direction
Hometown: Edmonds, WA
Current Home: Brooklyn, NY
Age when at Vera: 16-26

“I started going to shows at Vera when I was in high school, became the outreach coordinator as a Sophomore in college, stayed involved on the programming committee, and then participated in the fundraising committee and gala planning.

In 2010 I had just moved back to Seattle to transfer to UW. I was looking for internships relating to music and art. I saw Vera post an opening on Myspace (lol) so I applied. Getting involved with Vera was a bit random, but the reason I stayed involved  for so long was that they gave me an opportunity to succeed on my own in any aspect I participated in. It was a safe place to come up with ideas and learn how a music organization works from top to bottom.

Whether it was fellow members and volunteers who I now consider life long friends or staff members of the board who have helped me in my career path, most of my good friends and mentors can somehow be linked back to Vera. Shannon Roach was a big mentor to me and we later worked together at The Recording Academy, which was a dream come true. Vera is where I learned you could have a career in music and gave me the skills to make that a reality. There’s no other place in Seattle that youth can feel empowered and have ownership over so much of an organization.”

Check out what Liz has been up to at Agoraphone, like this La Luz placement in a beer ad!. She also hosts Broad::Sounds, a bi weekly radio show on Newtown Radio exploring underground techno, house, ambient, experimental, r&b, and pop made by female -identified artists.

 

 

 

– JASMIN KWAN –

jasmin kwan (updated)

Age: 24
Day Job: Development Director at Skate Like a Girl
Hometown(s): Kent, Wa & Ballard
Current: Fremont
Age at Vera: 14 – current (as show manager)

“I wanted to be a part of Vera because I felt valued and music was so accessible for the all ages crowd. In 2008, I started working backstage at Sasquatch Music Festival, and working at Vera gave me the confidence to work with the “big shots.” Had it not been for Josh [Powell, former Programming Director], I’m not sure I would’ve had confidence that I could handle working in a 30,000 person venue. Having the experiences Josh placed into my hands at such a young age influenced the rest of my life choices and opportunities…”

Find out more about Jasmin’s work with Skate Like a Girl here: http://www.seattleweekly.com/home/950462-129/the-women-that-rock-seattle-to

Help us create more opportunities for rad people like Jasmin by making a gift today!
 
How to donate…
Mail a check! Our mailing address is 305 Harrison St. Seattle, WA 98109
Donate online! Make a one time donation or become a monthly donor!
 
Questions? Contact our Fundraising & Development Coordinator, Katherine Humphreys, at katherineh@theveraproject.org