Nestled in the heart of Wichita, The Vertical Violet is so much more than just another concert venue. It’s a place where musicians and concert-goers can truly make themselves at home. In fact, it is a home. Mo Barnhart and her family have been host to hundreds of house guests over the past half-decade while also providing food, lodging, and friendship to traveling musicians. Hosting concerts isn’t Mo’s only role in the world of creativity, though; she also creates fantastic dyed pieces. She is a wonderful example of how we can and should incorporate art throughout our entire lives.
KCQ: Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
MB: I grew up on a dairy farm in Viola, KS, where my mother homeschooled myself and my 4 siblings. I am married with 3 children – Freya age 19, Landon age 17, and Viola age 6. My children have been exclusively homeschooled, and I consider their education my top priority. I am an avid collector, and my home is filled top to bottom with eclectic artwork, sculptures, vintage and antique pieces, books and memorabilia.
My primary creative outlet is tie dye, and I sell my redyed clothing and accessories at the Old Town Farmers Market from May to October. For the last 5 years, we have transformed our home into a venue, hosting live music each month in our living room and giving touring bands & musicians a home away from home while they are in our area.
KCQ: What lead you to begin hosting concerts at your house?
MB: I have always been a music fanatic and made a point of supporting touring bands that came to town. Also, I regularly traveled to KC, OKC, ect. for shows.
We befriended a poet/musician from Arkansas named Bradley Hathaway. We invited him and his band to eat dinner with us before their Wichita show back in October 2006. The musicians touring with him were part of other bands, and later in January of 2007, they contacted me about the possibility of hosting a house show. I had never been to a house show nor did I ever consider it something we would be doing 5 years later.
We hosted the show, (small but great), and did not think much more about it. A week or two later, I was contacted by another band–friends of the band we just hosted. I hate saying “no” so we hosted another. Then I received a random message (this was all on my personal myspace at the time) from a California band who just searched for Wichita house shows and our last 2 shows came up. And so we painted our living room with purple stripes, named ourselves The Vertical Violet, set up a page just for hosting shows, and were flooded with requests.
We hosted 2-3 shows per month for the first couple years–bands from all over the USA and several international bands, too. Our basement is set up to sleep lots of people, and bands always know they have a home away from home and a lot of food when they are here. We depend solely on donations, and the bands that come here know I cannot guarantee them anything, but will give them everything that is donated. We feed everyone at the shows and set up a smorgasbord of food that usually gets devoured pretty quickly. This is in NO way a money making venture–we consider this our family’s ministry to bless those that travel making music and to offer an open door to both them and music lovers so they have a unique setting in which to interact. We now host 1 show per month, which is much more manageable. Since we homeschool, I need time when our house is set up for us and not in venue mode. Each July, we host a two day music festival Pond Party–this last year we had 20 acts play and over 400 people in our house and yard during the weekend.
KCQ: How did you become involved with dying?
MB: I have always been artistically-minded and fell in love with dying about 12 years ago. I started out with baby onesies and now dye everything I can get my hands on. I focus primarily on rescued or recycled clothing, but also dye all our linens, curtains, fabric, etc. It is my favorite process because there is an element of surprise with each piece…I am never quite sure what the results are going to be until I go through the entire process and unwrap my little ball of dyed goodness to see the patterns and colors. It really makes me giddy with anticipation knowing I have a washing machine full of pieces to untie and inspect. Sometimes the colors and patterns are breathtaking, sometimes not so much. If I am not pleased, nothing is ever ruined because I just tie it back up and try with another color. Eventually, it will become the combo I am happy with. Customers bring me their pieces and I dye for them. They get especially excited that I can dye over stained garments to make it a whole new wardrobe piece.
I sew, also, and make things from a wide range of materials. I make pillows and purses mainly. I love to sew paper and fabric together. And this fall I have been making boxes with lids, mostly from paper but tied together with string.
If you’d like to stay updated on events, you can be friends with Vertical Violet on facebook.