August | Interview with Omni Kitts Ferrara
One day, we walked into Yoga Mechanics and saw that in place of what was a long-standing retail space was now an intricate display of colorful string and notecards that asked us two questions: What do you have? What do you Need? In a heartfelt and sincere letter from studio owners, Omni and Daryl, they explained that the intention behind "The Resource Board" was to start a conversation and engage the community in a deeper way through an art installation.
I'm so proud to be a part of a yoga studio that sees the importance of relationship and isn't afraid to take chances. Omni's letter says it all and I encourage you to read it. Ever our fearless leader, she speaks candidly about why this came about both in her letter and here in our interview. I'm really excited to see what comes from this and know it will be great.
KO: OK—so this is pretty bold. What was the inspiration behind replacing a retail space with a bartering board at the yoga studio?
OKF: Retail comes very low on our priority list. Because, truth be told. Our real products are not clothes and yoga gear. Our products are processes. Classes, Workshops, Trainings, Retreats, Webinars, etc. So as we sold the last of our clothes, Daryl and I began to ask ourselves what did we want to put there. Books? A new retail display? None of which really peaked our interest. Personally, I am craving art. The past few years have been a tornado of tumult in our lives. It ripped us apart. People often assume that owning a yoga studio is the bees knees and it is on some level. It is also incredibly hard work. Hard work that we often conceal to offer folks the best possible experience. But as I continue to mature, I need authentic conversation, where we can bravely speak the truth of our experience. Art has always been a safe medium for me to begin dialogue. Art engages you. It can be whatever you make of it and from what you offer, so many different responses can come back. This moment in time is brimming with complexity and we all need tools to orient ourselves. Art can help us anchor ourselves and connect to how we feel. So, I told Daryl, "I have an idea..." and we went with it.
KO: From an outsider's perspective, I think it takes a certain amount of moxie and straight up courage to forgo the typical retail space in the yoga studio and replace it with something like this. Did this feel like a risk to you?
OKF: I love the word moxie. When I was little, I always wanted people to say that about me... "Man, that girl has got moxie". Thank you Kat! But I hardly think dropping the retail section of our yoga studio warrants moxie. Maybe like a little risk? Not even sure if it is risk. I think it is really just preference. I like art and depth more than I like clothes. When I began to think of this wall as an art installation wall, my brain had a field day! I have like 10 projects lined up in my mind. Art projects that are processes. They ask us to think, question and engage with ourselves and each other. To me, that is way cooler than shirts and tight pants.
KO: I love that the Resource Board is so creative and artistic. How did you come up with this specific idea?
OKF: Resource has been a big concept in my mind lately. To have resources around you is such a privilege. To have enough food, good food. Enough money, to sustain and not just survive. To have a community of people who actually help you to do what you need to do in life is stunning. I think about how our country has built itself in such a way that it diverts its resources to only a select few. It crushes my soul. To think that I have myself supported the continuation of such a broken system makes me sick to my stomach. I have been digging deep into this question.... "How do I create out of the resources I have, not the resources I want. "... Furthermore, "How do I re-source, restore, nourish and care for myself, out of nothing, no money, just me and the world?"
That was quite a tangent. Let me see if I can bring it back. I love teaching Yoga because I teach people how to care for themselves. I teach them about their bodies and out of nothing they can create more strength and more mobility in their bodies. This is a start. We need these personal tools to be in relationship with ourselves. But, let's get real. It only gets more complicated when we then consider how we are never not in relationship with everyone one around us. The REsource board felt like a good conversation starter beyond just ourselves. To step beyond the confines of our yoga mats and to think about how we are all in this web together.
I love linear projects. It just highlights the intersections and it is digestible. So I went with a web, a connection board. Plus, art draws people in. If I could get them to just ask, "What is this?" then it worked.
KO: I think that on a very basic level, the Resource Board relies on a blind faith in people. That we care, that we're generous, that we're willing and able to be there for one another and vulnerable enough to ask for help. How do you see the community interacting with it?
OKF: Yes, it does. I actually didn't consider this bias while making it. I just assumed people would rush to the board with their cards. But, the truth is it has been a quiet start. I came home yesterday a little scared. Not because I need people to engage with it or "like" it. But I felt scared, that maybe, people don't give a shit. And that feels awful to me. It has been this slow start that really highlighted this optimistic bias I inherently began from. And, the response is not mine to create. I made the structure, set the stage. How it is received and engaged with is the unknown. That is the interesting part. To be fair, it does take vulnerability and I think that people are actually just taking their time. Thinking deeply about what the need and feel safe enough to ask for. I think they are considering what they can give, something that feels real and necessary. I am so excited to see how it evolves and plays itself out. I also wrote an honest letter and it has been interesting watching people read the letter. The letter makes clear my preference of things and that is a bit more risky as a business owner. As business owners, there is an unstated norm to just stay neutral so that you don't piss off any customers. But, here is that optimism again.... I think grown-ups can hear something that may be contrary to their own opinions and still see the value of what is offered at YM. Maybe I have opened Pandora’s box?
KO: In your wildest dreams, what do you hope to see happen with this project?
OKF: I have no expectations. I dream and hope that people will be generous and offer themselves freely. It would be so satisfying to have even just one person struggling ask for what they need and those resources be there for them. That might happen. But only might. Nonetheless, it will be evocative. Something will happen.