Editor's note: Joshua Langlais is a local photographer and the creator of "A Community Thread," a project for which he interviews folks on the subject of community, its importance, and how we function as individuals within it. We featured Langlais' journey to this project in the Dec. 20 issue—quickly realizing the project would be great fodder for a Source Spotlight. Stay tuned for snippets from Langlais' project each month.
Below is an excerpt from his interview with Shanan Kelley in August 2018. Kelley has many descriptors, but she is perhaps most notably known for being the host of The Night Light Show (thenightlightshow.com).
A Community Thread: What does being a part of community mean to you?
Shanan Kelley: "It's an interesting conversation, for sure. And I think my answer is probably gonna be all over the place. But, because my understanding of community and how necessary it is has really evolved over the years—particularly in the last couple of years—I recognize as I'm on my path to becoming as well as I can be that it's essential that I have people around me. There [are] different areas where you need specific help and support and community, and so I have these specialized areas where I have a lot of strong community.
"And then in the larger sense, I can say several years ago—I had been living in Bend at the time for I guess five years or so—and I was I was having a hell of a time. I was coming out of the recession. I was experiencing a death year. I don't know if you've ever had a death year—it's really intense. And my dog got really sick and almost died and this really crazy miracle happened. Everybody put together a crowdfunding page—this was kind of when crowdfunding was still pretty new—and in like hours this chunk of money was available for me to get this emergency surgery for my dog. A lot of the names were anonymous, but looking through at these amounts of money that came through, I was like, 'I have something here that I didn't even realize I had. These people have me because of whatever I have invested in them along the way. This is how it's being reflected back to me.'
"And I can tell you that if that hadn't have happened, I probably would have left. I think I was so down. I was so at the bottom of where I could be at that time that if that miracle hadn't happened and if my community hadn't stepped up and responded in that way, there wouldn't have been a reason for me to be here because I wouldn't have known it was there. But they showed me. In this really concrete way, they demonstrated that they cared about me enough to pony up cash to set me up to have this crazy experience with my dog, who was, at the time, absolutely my unit. It was really interesting to look back on that and know, 'Oh, if this had gone a different way, I wouldn't have stayed. I would have just gone back up to Seattle with my tail between my legs and whatever.
"...we need to start just having contracts with how we engage with our community because it probably would serve us well to have it written out really well." —Shanan Kelley
"Yeah, what does it mean to be a part of a community? It's both. I love the feeling of belonging to a community. I do consider myself a community artist. And then, at the same time, I think there's a lot of responsibility that goes along with that on my part. I owe it to my community to bring the thing that they need, so I need to be able to listen in and know what that is. I then also have to be willing to take a risk and put my own spin on it and put my own word and messaging out there, too, and know how ever it's received is irrelevant. Or maybe it is relevant. I don't know. And then I also think that there's a couple of other parts of the agreement. And, actually, this is maybe where we need to start just having contracts with how we engage with our community because it probably would serve us well to have it written out really well. I also think it's important for me to leave this community and go see what other communities are doing and bring that back and share that with what I have here.
"I also think, for me, I have so many different communities. I have all these different things I have my fingers in. And so a lot of them very much overlap and I like that. But it can definitely be... it's full. It's really full. In a good way."
Listen to the interview in its entirety at acommunitythread.com.