Season 2 Episode 13
Welcome to the neighborhood. There’s a party, and everyone’s invited. Through some twists, turns, and other adventures, Katie In ‘13 and Erik Jarvis ‘12 have both landed back in Grinnell, playing together as Pink Neighbor, pursuing their solo projects, and connecting with the creative community of Grinnell.
From a young age, both Erik and Katie pursued their musical passions. At Grinnell, Katie participated in the a cappella group Con Brio, the Multicultural Leadership Council, the Asian-American Association, and was a Mellon Mays Fellow. She also sang in Grinnell Singers, where she met Erik. Originally from Edmond, Oklahoma, he followed in his older sisters’ footsteps and came to Grinnell in search of “students doing weird things.” As a student, he worked at Bob’s Underground Cafe and Freesound, ran Track and Cross Country, and sang in Grinnell Singers.
Finding a Home in Grinnell
After graduating, In and Jarvis continued to work with the Grinnell arts community through projects like the Neverland Players and Tiny Circus. They lived in Omaha for a bit before they decided to move back to Grinnell. “We never really left the Grinnell community, so it was pretty easy to slingshot back,” Jarvis says.
In Grinnell, they have found a welcoming, receptive community and a nurturing place to launch their creative endeavors. Katie compares their tenure in Grinnell to an artists’ residency, saying “a lot of residencies say ‘come here to get away from the grind of daily life and focus on your art.' That’s what we’ve been doing here.”
Not only have they been able to focus on art, but also on their personal development. Katie says, “I’ve gotten to know myself as a creator a lot better… I just needed some distance to figure out who I am and what I want to say.”
As one of the only working bands in Grinnell (other than the illustrious Too Many String Band), they are able to develop their sound and figure out what they want to create without the pressure to fit into a specific scene.
Part of the Neighborhood
Since their time as students, Katie and Erik made connections with people in Grinnell from different communities and of all ages, which Jarvis sees as a benefit of living in a small place, and especially a town like Grinnell, where relationships are quickly facilitated through the local coffee shop or the arts center, where Erik works.
Those connections form the basis of their artistic ethos, as well, and influence their vision as musicians. Pink Neighbor’s goal is “to create a good experience for other people,” Katie says. “We want people to come and be free and be themselves when they see us play or listen to us. [Pink Neighbor] is like an invitation to a party where everyone is invited and we all just dance together.”
Indeed, they start their shows with a “Welcome Song,” and they seek to create a genuine, earnest connection with the audience. Katie painted a vision for their world: “It's like a cool psychedelic outer space dance party or something that like people come to and they have their own costumes that they've made themselves or something. They feel like completely free and comfortable to dance and let loose in front of each other.”
Music as a Manifestation of a Better World
With their music and other creative pursuits, Erik and Katie offer a vision of a different world, and sometimes a different universe. Katie says, “If you're imagining a future that takes into account whatever variables you think are important and like necessary to living more equitably and just lives in the world with each other and other humans, that can be such a powerful thing and an important thing to do.”
Katie often recalls her sociology studies, “One of the wonderful things about being a sociology major at Grinnell college is learning about systems, how to critique them, and break them down and understand them.” Taking on those systems can seem like a daunting task, but Katie finds creativity a powerful antidote to feelings of despair.
Erik, who studied music at Grinnell, says, “this place is really good at exposing you to a lot of different kinds of ideas…Grinnell’s students are so interesting and come with all different viewpoints. Even though we’re in rural Iowa, we still have an international community around us.” Both Erik and Katie have benefited from learning in the inspiring and supportive community of Grinnell, both as students and alums, which has helped them grow as artists and people.
Erik also found the self-directed and entrepreneurial spirit of creativity at Grinnell liberating as an artist. From Bob’s Underground to Freesound, he found “that idea that you don't really need permission is really kind of important in making art, especially as an independent musician.” And it is that spirit which led them to take the nebulous idea of Pink Neighbor from a figment of their imagination into a real band, adored by friends near and far (some of whom share their thoughts on this episode about what Katie and Erik mean to the Grinnell community).