Co-working, co-luminating

Co-luminate core team members gather in the new multi-use space. From left to right: Erica Mueller, Michael Hurd, Karin Petersen, Luz Rosengren, Reve Shannon, Aaron Maret and BJ Harden Jones. Erica Mueller
Co-luminate core team members gather in the new multi-use space. From left to right: Erica Mueller, Michael Hurd, Karin Petersen, Luz Rosengren, Reve Shannon, Aaron Maret and BJ Harden Jones. Erica Mueller

Walking into co-luminate — the small, downtown community space tucked away behind Laurey’s Catering and next to Go Yoga — is like entering a friend’s cozy living room, complete with warm lighting, tables, chairs, floor seats, Persian carpets and pillows. Unlike a friend’s living room, however, you’ll notice people scattered around, working independently on their laptops. You might also see groups of people animatedly discussing projects over tea.

Co-owners Aaron Maret and BJ Harden Jones opened co-luminate in November with the intention of building community and creating a downtown hub for transformational culture. The word co-luminate means “to shine together, to be lit up from within in the context of community,” explains Maret. Along with offering classes, workshops and events, co-luminate features a co-working space called a “community flexspace.” Members — who are currently billed on a pay-what-it’s-worth-to-you basis — can come and work independently in a supportive setting with the opportunity to connect, share ideas and collaborate on projects. 

Unlike a café (where food and socializing often take precedence over productivity) or a traditional office, co-luminate is a community lounge space with the purpose of gathering like-minded people with similar goals to inspire each other and get things done. Along with work tables and wireless Internet, co-luminate offers a cozy reading nook, kitchenette, resource library, digital projector and screen, sound system, mobile whiteboard and a small retail area. Shelves and furniture can be rearranged to suit changing needs.

It’s a place to “mingle, meet up and cross-pollinate,” says Maret. “There’s a good chance of bumping into someone with whom you’re sharing the journey.”

Members who use the community flexspace include writers, entrepreneurs, businesspeople meeting with clients, meet-up groups focused on specific interests or projects, students doing homework or just about anyone who wants a change of scenery for getting work done.

Tom Llewellyn, co-founder of Real Cooperative and Share Asheville, uses co-luminate as his office. “Having a space like co-luminate removes the overhead for small, grass-roots nonprofits like ourselves,” he says. “There are a lot of amazing people who come through. It’s a helpful place for exchanging ideas and potential collaborations on projects with people I would never meet working at home.”

During the week, co-luminate hosts a free community meditation from 8-9 a.m. Community flexspace hours follow from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., with the earlier part of the day reserved for those who want a quieter environment. From noon on, the space is open for group meetings, day programs and individuals who prefer a more active community work environment. Children are welcome to join their parents.

Harden Jones and Maret’s vision isn’t limited to providing a workspace for the community. During the evenings and weekends, co-luminate becomes a venue for various community-focused events such as film screenings, lectures, salons, practice groups, classes, ceremonies and musical performances. Specific upcoming and monthly events include: an intimacy skills practice group; a mindful parenting class; Death Café (an open forum for discussing death and dying); inquiry circle for Byron Katie’s work; sacred geometry classes and a men’s nude yoga class, among others. The owners also host a movie night twice a month.

“We’re moving toward having community-driven programs here,” says Harden Jones. “It’s a place for people to teach what they have to offer.” Nonmember presenters can rent the space for their events or workshops at reasonable rates. Members get a rental discount along with support and promotion from co-luminate, in addition to access to the community flexspace.

Maret says the current space is a “launchpad” for bigger plans. “We're getting our start here, planning our next steps, and we intend to move into a larger, mixed-use space with a campus feel — about 10,000 square feet — sometime this year.”

For information on memberships, day programs and upcoming events, visit co-luminate.com.

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About Ann Marie Molnar
I am a freelance writer living in Asheville NC.

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