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The Arts

Finding Equilibrium

From wellness to arts, a new venture seeks to create community by creating a positive gathering space

BRATTLEBORO—Jacob Alan Roberts and Jessica Jean Weston recently established Equilibrium, a new community gathering place, calling it, “a positive lifestyle environment.”

Equilibrium aims to add balance to people’s lives by providing space that nurtures art, culture, community, and personal well being, according to its website.

The founders envision this venture “as a stimulating multi-platform venue that aims to provide space for those seeking to live a more healthy, happy and harmonious life.”

Equilibrium is part cafe, restaurant, retail store, performance space, holistic health center, and community center.

Roberts and Weston explained that “by offering a number ways to engage in building a more healthy, peaceful, creative, social, and cultural lifestyle — in one cozy facility — Equilibrium endeavors to become a refreshing addition to this inspiring community and only add to the already stunning landscape of this beautiful region; aiming to benefit retailers, teachers, artists, performers, and patrons alike.”

In other words, Equilibrium is many things for many purposes for many kinds of people.

Roberts and Weston have divided the 3,000 square-foot open space with its tall ceilings and large-scale warehouse windows into a series of smaller shops and multi-purpose spaces.

Superfresh! Organic Cafe offers regionally-sourced organic, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free cuisine, desserts, fair-trade coffee, teas, fresh juices, and waters. Only recently did Equilibrium receive its food license, so Superfresh! now can increase the kinds of foods it can offer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The Healing Arts Sanctuary offers a multitude of one-on-one and group wellness-based services such as Reiki, massage, meditation, shamanic healing, astro-reading, yoga, holistic health coaching, nutrition, and herbal consultations.

Roberts and Weston said the health center was purposely situated at the heart of the venue. Local health and wellness practitioners can rent the space by the hour or offer classes.

Equilibrium includes a gallery and crafters’ marketplace where area artists can display and sell original, handmade art, craft, clothing and other goods.

“All the people we show here have to fill out an online application and we both have to see if our visions are compatible,” Roberts said. “What is essential is that that each and every one of them, whether they are professionals or not, treats their art and craft with honor.”

Last, but not least, there is a 1,000-square-foot open space suitable for hosting a variety of events from art exhibits, to classes and demonstrations, to small concerts.

“This space also functions as a salon-style art gallery where artists rent and curate by the month,” Roberts said, “We not only will have a grand opening during Gallery Walk, but we have closing reception for each show on the final Sunday evening of the month,” which will be more directly focused on the artist and his and her work than in the crowded chaos of the first Friday Gallery Walk.

Belize to Brattleboro

While the running of Equilibrium now consumes their lives, Roberts and Weston initially had no intention of developing such a site. Their plans were focused on living off the grid in Central America.

Roberts and Weston came to southern Vermont after a year living in Belize. They decided it might be a good idea to come back to the United States to try out their plan before moving back to the jungles and mountains. They began working on a small farm in Halifax.

Every so often, Roberts and Weston would venture from the farm into Brattleboro, and they were excited by what they encountered.

“It was such a welcoming community,” Roberts said. “After 20 years on the lam, I suddenly felt like I was home.”

When space became available behind T. J. Buckley’s on Elm Street, they began thinking about its possibilities for bringing together many thriving aspects of the Brattleboro community in one center.

As they say on their website, “the building itself is an attraction worth a visit. Built as a manufacturing facility in the early 20th century, the modest bi-level brick and mortar structure is one of the last of its kind still embracing a practical contemporary use.”

“Our vision at first was not to start a business,” said Weston. “We at first considered renting the building as a studio for Jacob to work on his photography and painting. But when we actually toured the space, I felt the pull of its vortex of positive energy, and suddenly our plans changed.”

Roberts has a background in arts administration and Weston in health and wellness. “This is our first blush together in business,” Weston said. “Equilibrium is a means to bring our two worlds together.”

Although Equilibrium could be called the new kid in town, for many, it recalls an older Brattleboro that seems to be danger of being lost.

“People keep coming up to us exclaiming that this just what the town needs,” Roberts said. “It reminds many of the old Common Ground, where people could get together for good healthy food, music, and conversation.”

He also said that Equilibrium seeks to be a good neighbor.

“We are not here to compete with other businesses in town,” continued Roberts. “We serve Mocha Joe’s coffee and our teas come from Serenity’s Herbs and Teas on Eliot Street, and we encourage all the area health practitioners to use our Healing Arts Sanctuary. Our mission is not to usurp what is good about this town, but complement it.”

An ‘important zone’

When Roberts and Weston first told people they were considering renting a space on Eliot Street, Roberts said, “Some people cringed at the location. But I have to tell you that this is definitely not the case. Perception is not reality. After being here several months, and meeting our neighbors and their families, we discovered they all are lovely people.”

In the past, he said, people saw downtown ending after the Brattleboro Holistic Health Center on Eliot, “but with our space, as well as the T.J. Buckley’s and the Eliot Street Cafe, we are extending downtown, becoming a gateway between Brattleboro’s urban and residential environment. We want to work to help spruce up this important zone.”

Roberts and Weston said they believe Equilibrium will help round out what is being called the Brattleboro Arts Campus, a group of art organizations and venues in close proximity that include the Latchis Theatre, Insight and the Vermont Center of Photography, New England Youth Theater, and other sites now in development.

“We hope to contribute to and feed off of this exciting environment,” said Roberts.

The numerous events that Equilibrium is now hosting, from concerts to classes, can be found on the calendar at its website, www.eqvermont.com, and on its Facebook page. Roberts and Weston also publish a weekly newsletter updating subscribers on the latest information and events at Equilibrium.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #176 (Wednesday, October 31, 2012).

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