This neighborhood is painted in more vivid colors on hot, humid days. Further afield, you can see people cooling off in Tatte and Starbucks, guys in ties holding wilting cones of flowers, women talking on cellphones, jackets slung over a tanned shoulder, all clad in shades of blue and grey.
Here, on a side street, people rumble by pushing two-wheelers of bright vegetables and hail hello to a cluster of folks smoking cigarettes under the shade of a streetlamp, white shirts glinting in the noon sky. Red signs seem to be painted in sunlight and nothing stands still.
A nondescript walkup on this very street houses the headquarters of The Creative Zone, brainchild of Syd Harvey and a network of her event organizer friends. HQ takes up two floors of this skinny building, but there’s no sign to speak of on street level. The first rule of the place has become apparent: You have to know where to look.
Syd ushers me inside to the instant cool relief only an ancient Boston building can provide. We pass by the first TCZ event space on the second floor and go straight to the third, situating ourselves behind glasses of ice water and a floor fan.
Syd is energetic and excited, and she talks of TCZ with a breathless poise. Though it officially launched in July of last year, The Creative Zone grew out of a number of informal events that Harvey shared with her friends.
“I invited my friends, and my friends invited their friends for dinner parties, comedy shows, art galleries, paint nights, intimate concerts… Anything under the sun,” she explains. “And because of the intention we set, our private events attract all different kinds of people.”
From there, Harvey and friends began experimenting further – racking up more and more successful, safe, community-minded events. Now, with TCZ nearing a full calendar year of bringing people together, the collective is booming, and more friends of friends are lining up.
As for the events themselves, the uniting principle may be a love of hemp and cannabis culture, but Harvey is passionate about bringing diversity of craft and skill to her gatherings. Harvey explains that hosts can choose to take the reins and throw the event autonomously, to collaborate with TCZ, or to let her team help curate. The events are always different, but the results are largely the same.
Harvey believes TCZ’s outspoken support of hemp and cannabis culture has served as a unifier, attracting diversity of craft, skills, and personality to her gatherings. She explained that TCZ mainly works through collaboration with aligning community organizers and organizations.
“When I first started this, I wanted to manifest this culture of open-mindedness and self-expression,” she says.
The ideal TCZ event has a host with a vision. This host provides space to throw an open jam, a yoga session, a dance performance, an art class, or a similar creative pursuit. Harvey’s team takes care of the logistics of event coordination, and also cooperates with small businesses, ranging from massage therapists to fledgeling indie clothing companies, in order to round out the experience for host and guest alike.
“Usually, we have one specific reason for putting [an event] on, whether it’s more holistic in nature, artistic, entertaining, or educational,” says Harvey. “In order to support everyone, we invite local professionals to sell their art, for example, or offer a service like reiki.”
Harvey, sitting at the kitchen counter in the large open-plan upstairs space at TCZ, sips her water and smiles. To anyone else, trying to unite all of Boston and the surrounding area, all its many guests, hosts, businesses, and creatives in all their diversity, would be a madman’s task. But Harvey has identified that TCZ’s outspoken support of positive cannabis culture has been effective in attracting open-minded individuals to gain exposure to new practices and possibilities.
“As a 16 year old I remember thinking, ‘What’s wrong with this plant? Why is it so wrong?’ And then I started digging and I learned about its medicinal power and the corruption behind its illegality,” she says, her brow knitted in memory.
“I think a passion for educating, and building platforms for people to be more of who they want to be – this desire organically led to the formation of TCZ. We are accepting of people here at TCZ so long as our guests are safe and feel comfortable being themselves.”
Maybe you’ll wind up at TCZ to take a meditation class. Maybe your favorite local musician will be playing there. Maybe you’ll wind up selling your handmade jewelry at an event. Maybe you yourself will host an event. Harvey is excited for what the future will bring, and though her goals are lofty, she believes that the principles couldn’t be simpler.
“I think what’s really powerful is that when you combine forces, you combine voices,” she says, linking her fingers together. “There is a cultural shift happening. And for that reason it is essential for people to gather and manifest the cultures they idealize. The more we set this intention, the larger our community and impact will grow.”
Outside, the sweltering city bustles with creative minds. Some are incipient and some are well on their journeys. Some, like Harvey, are firm believers in the healing and creative powers of cannabis, and some are not. Some are friends and some are friends of friends. All are welcome to enjoy themselves at TCZ, so long as they are kind, curious, and creative. And if you’re one of them, remember the first rule I learned about the place: Your people are out there. You just have to know where to look.