Imagined and created by a collective of volunteers in Olympia, 115 Legion is a multi-use community event space, print shop and media lab that exists to help expand the capacity of our community. Since opening its doors in August of 2018, 115 Legion has been providing a space for the community to come together to make art, learn skills, and host and attend events of all kinds while maintaining low-barrier costs.

The organization was conceptualized when a group of friends, recognizing how shared resources empower and strengthen communities, began developing plans for a physical space that could facilitate this vision. The founders imagined a space open to everyone and organized by the community it serves, with members organizing events, sharing knowledge, participating in collective management and making a cooperative effort to enhance our local community.

In May 2018, the collective signed a lease on its current location, which as the name suggests, is located at 115 Legion in downtown Olympia.

Local artists vend and browse at 115 Legion’s recent holiday pop-up art market. Photo courtesy: 115 Legion

While there are infinite uses for community centers such as 115 Legion, two of the most significant are its Print Shop and Media Lab. With a fully equipped screenprinting studio and materials for book binding, the Print Shop operates during volunteer-run open hours. The Media Lab is equipped with computers, printers, audio, video, and photo equipment, and volunteers are available to give instruction with media-related skills such as using Photoshop and other software. Both the Print Shop and Media Lab are open to the public on a donation basis after gaining a proficiency through one of 115 Legion’s Screenprinting 101 or Bookbinding 101 classes. Additionally, the Media Lab hosts a meeting every other week that interested individuals should attend.

115 Legion is operated by several different volunteer collectives, each focusing on a different area of operations. Both the Media Lab and Print Shop have different groups facilitating them, and matters such as finances and event planning are also collectively managed. These collectives are open to join, making the organizational structure of 115 Legion one that is truly community-centered and inclusive.

115 Legion’s Print Shop is equipped with materials to allow users to create fine art prints, shirts, pamphlets, and more. Photo courtesy: 115 Legion

“Sharing space and resources builds community. When we share resources, we are stronger,” says Ruth, a member of the collective that is responsible for event organization.

The front room of 115 Legion hosts an abundant variety of events. Some events are organized by members of the governing collectives, however, many of the events, such as a weekly clay class teaching hand-building techniques, are simply organized by people with a desire to facilitate an activity or share skills. While the space hosts many arts related events, everything under the umbrella of community organizing can be found at 115 Legion, such as substance abuse recovery groups, a seed starting class for aspiring gardeners, a monthly prison letter writing group, and a multitude of events facilitating mutual aid, such as an Herbal Mutual Aid event that happened in December 2019. Participants shared information on herbal healing remedies, focusing on immune-boosting treatments, with free tinctures, literature and tea offered at the event.

The term “mutual aid,” the act of voluntarily sharing resources and knowledge, infers that the participants are equal to each other and are benefitting mutually, unlike the concept of charity, which places one party above another. The events and resources provided by 115 Legion prioritize this method of strengthening our community, allowing the people attending to help enrich the skills, knowledge and capability of those around them, while also learning from others.

Spaces to gather, learn, and share skills are essential to the vitality and connectivity of our community. Photo courtesy: 115 Legion

Toward the end of December 2019, 115 Legion hosted a pop-up holiday art market where local artists and makers sold their work, with articles from ceramics to hand-made journals. “The other vendors were all incredibly nice and make of us traded each other our goods,” says Ryne Clarke, a visual artist. “The 115 Legion space is very accommodating and I look forward to participating more within the community around it.”

For those interested in getting involved, 115 Legion’s online calendar lists upcoming events, and the space is available for anyone to host an event free of charge. Any activity or event that enriches our community is welcome, with restrictions on certain activities such as amplified music and events for political candidates. An event request form is available online.

115 Legion is always looking for volunteers to help with hosting events, support the print shop and media room, teach skills, and donate. Many patrons use the print shop to design and create clothing, and then donate proceeds back to 115 Legion, or donate materials that are needed at the space. For those who want to support the space through working in non-hierarchical collective management, the groups that oversee the workings of 115 Legion are open to new members. Contact eventspace.115@gmail.com for more information on getting involved, or visit 115 Legion’s website to learn more or donate.

Thrifty Thurston highlights inexpensive family fun in Thurston County. The weekly series focuses on family-friendly activities throughout our community. If you have a suggestion for a post, send us a note at submit@thurstontalk.com. For more events and to learn what’s happening in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and the surrounding area, visit our complete events calendar.

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