How to easily assimilate into an arts collective in 16 pages or less: Entering the Mind of Flywheel

How to easily assimilate into an arts collective in 16 pages or less: Entering the Mind of Flywheel
by Elise Granata

“We know you’re shy. We’re all shy. But shyness just makes the world a cold and lonely place, and leaves bands wondering what the hell is going on. Put yourself in their shoes, take a deep breath, and say hello. Tell them what they need to know…” (pg 9-10)

Creating a collective is a beast. Sure, you’re doing the important work of dismantling hierarchical power structures, but at what snackless, 5-hour-long-meeting cost?

What if I told you there is a guide? It’s a simple how-to on how one collective runs their stuff. It’s a quick-read of a PDF. It kinda feels like it might be shrouded in gold. It’s the Easy Assimilation Guide.

Flywheel Arts Collective is an all-ages arts space based in Easthampton, MA. And they are entirely volunteer-run. Entering the Mind of Flywheel: An Easy Assimilation Guide is the document they share with volunteers, show bookers, members of their “hub” (voting members) and “spokes” (non-voting members), and all of us. It’s a training document that breaks down everything you need to know to contribute to Flywheel– from meeting protocols to what kind of lights look best on performing artists.

It is a companion guide, a bible, and a reference all-in-one. They do this all in 16 pages.


Click here to download and read along below!

There’s a “cliffnotes” version below, but let’s talk about what’s especially awesome about this Guide. Plenty of times we say that we care about a thing, and then promptly light the room on fire and exit in flames if it ever actually needs to be addressed. Flywheel does not do this.

You can really feel parts of their mission (“art and information should be equally accessible and affordable to all people”) throughout the whole document. And it’s the first thing people read when they get involved.

You can download it here. Read along to the rest of this post. Read for yourself and share with your collective. Here are a few points as to why this is especially awesome:

  • Empowering. Flywheel claims to be “decentralized,” but so often spaces like this end up the centralized-est. Centralization, like weird childhood phobias, start from moment one of conception. That’s why it’s awesome they have simple, but powerful statements like:

Flywheel is a do-it-yourself space, where we work together as equals and no one is considered a passive cog in the machine. So, if a neighbor complains or if someone is disorderly at a show, it is up to you to respond. This doesn’t mean you should handle it alone. Ask the other volunteers there to help you or call someone you know on the list for advice.

Statements like this don’t magically wipe weird socialization to defer to a ‘leader’ away, but they certainly make the expectations of the collective clear and unafraid. (pg 3-4)

  • Clearly communicates how to communicate. Sometimes it’s easy to be told to “talk to everyone,” but you…you know, don’t. Because it’s hard. If it was easy to talk to everyone, we wouldn’t have to be told to. Flywheel supplements this with third-party communication tools, like their internal e-mail list Flywheel Communication and web-based info hub MyFly. This is also stated clearly in the doc, not making it anyone’s club. (pg 3)
  • Emphasizes personal responsibility. “Remember Flywheel doesn’t have a paid manager who has more time than you to do this, so please be considerate.”As an all-volunteer-run organization, statements like this that emphasize ‘no really, no one gets paid’ is important.  (pg 5)
  • Outlines an awesome accountability process. Some scientific principle somewhere that states if you are working with anybody else besides yourself, grievances are inevitable. (This also may apply if you are just working by yourself. We all have bad days.) Flywheel makes the point to outline process to address grievances between members, prioritizing one-on-one conversation over General Body ganging-up-on. Respectful, one-on-one conversation is highlighted as “the most revolutionary and mentally healthy thing you can do.” If that’s not an option, free mediation or addressing it via the Flywheel body is the next step. (pg 8)
  • Show rules double as an educational how-to. There’s a thick section of your basic rules for booking a show, but they’re written in a way that is also seriously educational. It could be in a zine about how to book your first DIY gig. It achieves the dual purpose of being something an experienced booker could skim, or a newbie could learn from. (pg 8-11)
  • Booker Bux. Cold, hard Booker Bux. Flywheel functions on a job-based economy: you sign up for a simple task like sweeping the floor, painting a room, etc and this gives you Booker Bux. You need three per month to book a show. And if you’re someone who doesn’t give a hoot? No fear. There’s a new economy for you, and it is in cash. This is a $40 fee people can pay to book a show at Flywheel without having to do a job at Flywheel to fulfill their volunteer duties. (p 12)


Again, feel free to download Entering the Mind of Flywheel: An Easy Assimilation Guide here. Build on it, learn from it, and let Flywheel know you’re thankful for it.

Booker Bux are the way to earn credit at Flywheel by doing jobs or volunteer tiime. Illustration by Pia Barnett.

Booker Bux are the way to earn credit to book a show at Flywheel. They’re earned by doing jobs or volunteer time. Illustration by Pia Barnett.

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