By Olivia J. B. Baxter
When I resided in the city – a mecca of venues, opportunity, and a variety of creative arts communities – finding music and art-related shows, gatherings, gigs, and networking opportunities were as easy as walking out my West Philadelphia door. All over the city, there are house venues, church venues, cafés and restaurants turned event venues, galleries, theaters, bookstores, oh my! And access to any of these spaces and events was always just a trolley ride and a brisk walk away for me.
Now that I’ve moved to West. Mt. Airy I’m in search of more local options for where I can listen to different styles of music, view art, attend an author event, watch films, network, and socialize. While there are some great options for engaging in one or two of these activities within a five-mile radius of my residence, like Uncle Bobbies Coffee House in Germantown for author and community wellness events and the Keswick Theater in Glenside for music concerts, I like variety and the option to hop around from one neighboring township to the next to see what’s happening and being created in other areas. Recently, I’ve caught myself asking “Where else can I go, perhaps to enjoy a multitude of these activities?”
Providing one answer to that question are Ben Morris and Caitlyn Deviney, of beloved musical duo Homestead Collective. On January 25, 2020, in Glenside, PA the pair opened The Homestead, Philadelphia’s burbs newest multi-purpose venue.
I just recently met with them for an in-depth interview where they shared details about themselves, the venue and their plans for the Homestead within its newfound community.
That Music Mag: What are your history in Glenside and this area?
Caitlyn: We both grew up around this area– we’ve been familiar with Glenside in terms of all the different shops and restaurants and places to be; we both have attended New Life Church for a while just up the street and we met at youth group there.
Ben: they had a youth band.
Caitlyn: we started playing music together in that youth group so that’s been about 8 years we’ve been playing together.
TMM: You two are currently in a band together, correct?
Caitlyn: Yes, we’re a folk duo.
Ben: The Homestead is the space and Homestead Collective is the band.
Caitlyn: The Homestead Collective is both the band and the community organization that we launched a few years ago.
TMM: Can you share more about the collective?
Caitlyn: Sure – We had a statement that the homestead collective is celebrating music and art through continual gatherings. Over the last few years at the home, we were at Ben, our roommates, and I started hosting gatherings that were potluck and creative sharing time. We had musicians, artists, writers, poets, wood-burning, pottery. A lot of different people coming together to share their art and it built a solid community of artists around here. Then we started hosting backyard concerts during the summer, a few songwriting retreats, and workshops as well. We were always trying to come up with different ways to gather people creatively.
TMM: What led to the birth of the Homestead, the venue?
Caitlyn: Well, this past spring we came to a kind of a crossroads of deciding where do we take Homestead collective next—do we tour up and down the east coast and invest in a conversion van or do we want to start looking for physical spaces to host events? The community that we were involved with from the gatherings made a point to us in saying “hey! You know, don’t leave us!” With that, we thought we should give more weight to the option of getting a space. At this time, I was also dog walking for a company and while driving this way on Glenside Ave. I saw a for rent sign in the window here and called up the landlord and gathered as much information as I could about it–
Ben: Well, right before that there was a space one block over that was smaller than this one and again at that time, we thought we’d just use the space for small gatherings. As soon as we emailed that contact, we received a response that it was just leased by somebody. Then this space just popped up and it wound up being a blessing in disguise because this space is allowing us to be far more diverse and operate on a bigger scale.
Caitlyn: The landlord here has been awesome in saying we can do whatever we want in here—he really believed in our vision. This used to be a staffing office—carpet everywhere, very clinical similar to a dentist’s office, so we completely renovated with the support of our community. We launched a Kickstarter with a goal of $5000- mainly for this wood floor- but we ended up doubling our crowdfunding because of our amazing community of friends and artists all over the country. And, ben’s dad is a contractor, so he helped us with renovations to reduce our labor costs.
TMM: That’s the perfect embodiment of what you two were trying to build- you wanted a space where people can gather and support one another, and the community came together to help build that space. Aside from the crowdfunding, how involved were your community of friends and family and creatives in the renovations of the physical space?
Ben: Just about every project was primarily Caitlyn, myself and my dad but with everything we did in here there was at least one random person outside of the three us that would help. For instance, when we did the floor, we had a couple of guys helping with that, when we painted, we had about a dozen people helping with that. There were always people helping us either physically or financially with this space.
TMM: With such a strong community of people investing in this space how do you envision this space giving back?
Caitlyn: When we were brainstorming what our goals were—bringing fresh live music to this area we were noticing, geographically what’s around us– the Keswick Theater is close to us and it draws a lot of bigger acts and also tribute bands that appeal to an older crowd; Arcadia University is just up the road as well and brings a lot of college-age kids into the area. Between the shops and restaurants on Glenside Avenue, the train station right here and Keswick village down there we felt like we were in a great area to introduce our large network of local artists to the community as well as provide a space for smaller acts from all over the country to perform in this area.
Ben: There are a lot of people in this community who love live music, and because we play music we play in Philly quite a bit and we know how challenging it can be to get people to come to Philly and the opposite as well to get people out of Philly to see shows out here. Part of the reason we love this location is the fact the train station is just a few hundred feet away and makes this venue more accessible.
TMM: Do you feel like you guys are the only space in the area you can access local talent? That you are making it more accessible to people of all ages?
Ben: Yeah, that was part of our goal. We know from both a listener and a musician’s standpoint that there are artists around here that nobody gets to hear because they can’t access a local venue. They have to go elsewhere to play and then the local community must go with them to listen to them play.
Caitlyn: We know there are a few open mics that happen around here—like the VFW and other bars. But there’s no designated Listening room—and this is something we want to promote and embody. We want to provide local and touring artists intentional listeners, so they don’t have to compete with the things that often take the attention of the patrons of bars and larger venues.
TMM: I see some art on the walls—is the Homestead going to be a multi-media/multi-purpose venue?
Caitlyn: yes! When we first started envisioning this space, we knew it would be primarily for music, but we also wanted to make it as versatile as we possibly can for different things. We want to display local art so we’ll rotate out different artists, we want it to be rented out for private or public events- bridal showers, birthday parties, rehearsal dinners, workshops, seminars, rehearsal space—possibilities are endless as we’re open different things happening here.
Ben: we’re open to trying things out.
Caitlyn: There seems to be a need in the area for a reasonably priced rentable all-purpose space that people can access to host something like a 50th birthday party– We’re gauging what the needs are and listening to what the community is telling us they need. We are BYO and we can cater and vendor. We don’t have a kitchen, but people are welcome to bring in pre-prepared foods. And Ben has recoding studio in the office here–
TMM: Will that be available to the public as well?
Caitlyn: Ben has produced other clients’ work at another location and our own music; as well, he’s a multi-instrumentalist and can pretty much play anything—
Ben: The studio isn’t a huge space so getting a big band with a horn section could be a little tricky. But, I’m willing to try and open to working with musicians of any genre. Today I did a quick little session that came about yesterday—some guy walking by popped in and asked what we were doing, when he learned we had a recording studio he scheduled a session for today and came back and laid down four songs.
Caitlyn: Another thing is eventually we envision this space to be accessible for co-working. We understand there are people in the neighborhood who want to get out of their house and work but need a space that isn’t as populated as a coffee shop but still provides that opportunity to work away from home and among other people. For a small monthly fee, people will be able to access the space at designated times throughout the day. They’ll have a quiet space with wi-fi, workstations, and other small amenities like a microwave, coffee, and tea. We also plan for this space to be used for video and photoshoots and film production so photographers and videographers can have a space to create as well.
Ben: Currently we’re working on building a large rolling wall that will have different backdrops, greenscreen, and act as a divider to divide the space up in here when necessary.
Caitlyn: We also have a projector and screen to premiere films—in fact, we just scheduled a film premiere and plan to continue to host more film screenings and allow people access to the projector and screen for their events and workshops.
TMM: That’s great! It’s clear that since you opened people have shown just how much they need a space like this. So, I saw on your website that you already have some upcoming events planned—should people keep an eye on the site and social media for what’s happening next?
Ben: Yup. Schedule-wise right now we plan for Friday and Saturday nights to be when the shows will happen. For people interested in renting the space we plan for other events to take place during the weekdays and evenings. On occasion we’ll have a weeknight show or a weekend event– We’re flexible and the schedule is subject to change as we see fit.
I had the pleasure of attending the venue’s grand-opening event and was able to see Ben and Caitlyn’s visions for just how this multi-purpose venue can support and cater to the various needs of the community. That evening started with a spread of light fare catered from neighboring establishments, BYO libations and conversation flowed as people from the neighborhood freely toured the space and mingled with neighbors who came from all over the city and its surrounding neighborhoods. At the back of the room opposite the entrance is a large platform stage; Rows of chairs filled the middle of the room and a few large, comfortable couches headed the seating area in front and off to the side of the stage allowing for people to sit, relax, and engage with one another and listen comfortably to performances throughout the night.
Joy Ike accompanied by sister Peace– good friends of Ben and Caitlyn and members of the Homestead Collective (the organization,) opened the evening of performances and lead the audience in wishing Caitlyn a happy birthday presenting her with song and cake. Ben provided the soundscapes throughout the evening and between acts and Homestead Collective (the band) introduced themselves to the neighborhood with a warming set followed by a 4-piece neo-roots band The Quixote Project who closed out the evening giving the venue a proper “welcome” to the neighborhood and venue scene.
Hanging out in this space felt like sitting in a house and backyard enjoying live entertainment and lively company. Throughout the venue are various elements of both indoor and outdoor living spaces. There’s a creative use of upcycled pallet wood that was used to make a gorgeous backdrop for the stage and hearth-like mantels alongside one wall that acts as perfect areas to rest one’s glass or display framed art and images.
After experiencing The Homestead’s first event and speaking with the duo it’s apparent Caitlyn and Ben’s experience hosting events and playing gigs has given them a profound understanding of the benefits of having a hub for people from all over to gather, express, and foster their love and appreciation for creative mediums and self and community wellness.
This venue embodies the owners’ passion for supporting and investing in the community, and given that the room was packed at the grand opening and events that have followed are often sold-out people are excited this innovative and accessible venue is here for people of all ages to utilize for various activities and enjoy themselves at different events.
The Homestead Glenside
1s Easton Rd
Glenside, PA 19038