Local musician and writer Susan Sakash, 30, had only one qualm about living in an old Providence warehouse. Though she didn't mind the 12-foot ceilings and open space in the summertime, Sakash says, "I was kind of freaked out about the winter."
She came up with a creative way to stay warm. Sakash built a cocoon out of fabric around her bed, so she could heat it easily with a space heater. She stitched together a canopy of translucent fabric that now stretches from above her bed down to the floor. Her roommates followed suit, wrapping their own sleeping areas in layers of plastic to heat them up to 60 or 70 degrees when the sun shines in.
During winter in New England, Sakash says, "People tend to insulate themselves and disappear." She knew her idea could revolutionize winter for creative types in Providence.
The first step was posting the idea on a Providence listserv, asking others to build homemade caves of their own and host social events in them. She called the project "Caves of Comfort."
Sakash, who plays and writes music for Providence's What Cheer? Brigade and works for Rhode Island School of Design's Office of Public Engagement, has organized art exhibits in Latin America and Europe. Now she's into a different kind of curating — encouraging local creative types to host "cave" gatherings as a way to stay warm and stay social through the winter.
Sakash hosted the first gathering in her own cave. Twelve people, some of them strangers, gathered in her cocooned bed one cold December day. Guests brought their own piece of reading to perform for the group.
One attendee conducted a dramatic tour of the Yellow Pages. Another came in costume as a teenage pop star. Sakash conducted a contest to see who could take the tiniest bite out of several tiny foods that she provided for the occasion. The event wound down with a communal viewing of "weird YouTube videos." Most importantly, attendees stayed toasty warm and made some new friends.
The next step, Sakash says, is for other people to begin hosting events in their own caves. So far Sakash knows of five such "hot spots" in small apartments and other warehouse buildings across Providence, and she hopes to make a map of them on her Web site: caves-of-comfort.tumblr.com.
While Sakash admits the project may draw a certain type — artsy, alternative twenty- and thirty-somethings — she hopes it can expand beyond that demographic. After all, you don't have to be hip to build a cocoon to help lower those oil bills for the winter. It just takes a bit of creative inspiration. Who didn't build a fort under the kitchen table as a kid, after all?