HATCH festival carries a certain cachet, though even its organizers are hard-pressed to put a finger on just what exactly the festival is. Perhaps that's because, like any meaningful work of art, it reveals itself in layers. Perhaps that's because, while HATCH provides a booster shot of inspiration, its full impact is felt afterwards — in the weeks and months as the connections made bear fruitful collaborations.
Sean O'Connell, the HATCH Asheville co-chairperson (and founder and CEO of Asheville-based Music Allies) finds it easier to define HATCH by what it isn't: "It's not about creating product, though I think there are some great national companies that were spurred by HATCH," he says. The four-day event is also not about the parties — though some of last year's were epic. To O'Connell it was less partay and more parley. "You never felt like you were at a party; you were in a room full of people who wanted to change the world," he says.
For the festival's local sophomore effort this year, to enhance that experience, HATCH's parties will be "a little more intimate" (and, on the schedule, filed under "networking"). "I want to make sure the dialogue continues into the evening," says O'Connell.
Actually, intimacy seems to be a theme for the planning of HATCH — keeping the event within a walkable handful of city blocks, maintaining an attendance that allows for easy connection and communication, and aiming for accessibility over star power. "There's not an emphasis on getting a big-name person," says O'Connell. Though this is only the second year for HATCHAsheville, the festival takes cues from the successes and stumblings of its predecessor/sister-gathering in Bozeman, Mont. "Bozeman realized that stardom really changed the whole culture … and they really pulled back," says O'Connell.
Which is not to say the festivals "mentors" — its speakers, panelists and workshop leaders — aren't outstanding in their individual fields. Filmmaker Barnet Bain created the Oscar-winning production What Dreams May Come; fashion designer Jeff Garner's sustainable line, Prophetik, was featured on CNN during London Fashion Week this year; Asheville-born journalist Fritz Kramer worked on Emmy-winning PBS Frontline documentaries like Can You Afford to Retire?
But there are also plenty of experts whose accomplishments are under the radar but whose knowledge is ripe for the plucking of HATCH's "groundbreakers" — up-and-coming creative talent, or mentees — who applied for an were selected to participate in the festival and receive one-on-one guidance.
One groundbreaker musician, Frank Bell, will get the chance to record on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a nonprofit mobile audio-recording facility. The bus (which never belonged to Lennon but which is made possible by an arrangement with the late Beatle's wife, Yoko Ono Lennon) is mainly dedicated to providing hands-on programs to schools, but if its state-of-the-art equipment is lost on under-experienced students, it won't be on Bell. "It may be the best recording studio you've ever gone into," O'Connell notes. Touring musician Matt Morris, whose new album Everything Breaks Open was produced by Charlie Sexton and Justin Timberlake, will be available to co-write and record with the music groundbreaker.
Last year's groundbreakers included local artists Joti Marra (fashion), Woody Wood (music) and Aaron Dahlstrom (journalism). Dahlstrom wrote, of his personal experience as a mentee, "I was skeptical about HATCH leading up to the event, but once it arrived, I was constantly impressed by the amount of talent the festival was able to bring. I met so many intelligent, innovative people — all working artists taking time away from their busy lives to share their ideas with us."
It's that sharing that seems to get O'Connell most excited. In fact, this year's festival hasn't even begun and he's already plumbing the roster of participants for interesting combinations and concepts.
For example, Crissa Requate (who works for Music Allies) told O'Connell about Playing For Change (a multimedia project/mobile recording studio born out of the idea that, Playingforchange.com says, "music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race"). Requate introduced the series' creators (which includes artists like Baaba Maal in Mali, Robert Bradley in Los Angeles and Grandpa Elliot in Boston) to Lake Eden Arts Festival executive director Jennifer Pickering, who was, in turn, inspired to collaborate. So she pulled in "a couple architects downtown who were looking to build schools in Rwanda," O'Connell remembers. "I thought, how awesome is that? To me there was a story there, there was a thread. There are so many people using their creativity to create positive social chance, so I went to the [HATCH] board and said, 'I think there's a panel here.'"
Even though the connections weren't obvious, the resulting panel includes filmmaker/philanthropist Charles Annenberg Weingarten, Morris (the musician), "who's done a lot of stuff with charities, and Linda Loudermilk, who donates a lot from one of her clothing lines to a charity, is on that panel. To me, that was great. Even the planning was HATCH moment," O'Connell explains.
Similarly, but more local in scope, HATCH has a music panel. "The concept is how music can be a catalyst for a lot of people in the creative industries," says O'Connell. "We're inviting a guy from Greensboro who has a blog that gives photographers and filmmakers a chance to collaborate with bands." Jenny Greer will talk about involving local musicians and filmmakers through Music Video Asheville, which recently screened at Cinebarre, and a spokeperson from Nashville's Fashion Rocks — a self-explanatory pairing of music and clothing — will also be present.
In short, HATCH is open to myriad concepts, collaborations, pairings of ideas, jumping-off points, inspirations, far-flung theories and big ideas. There's really only one thing that, according to O'Connell, HATCH will not be entertaining: "What we don't want to do is '101: How to make it in any of these businesses,'" he says. "That's never been our concept. It may not be dull for someone who's never heard it before, but I think a lot of that stuff isn't even relevant."
Alli Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
who: HATCH Asheville
what: Mentorship festival geared toward inspiring creative innovators
where: Downtown Asheville
when: Thursday, April 15, to Sunday, April 18 (see full schedule for event times and ticket prices. http://www.hatchasheville.org)