“I’ve never gone to theatre and not come back wanting to write, or the same with a music show. It’s about seeing all the arts as inspiring…I think seeing other people’s art is what allows you to create art. So the more of that that can be mixed together into one building and in one place with no exclusions or no labels or nothing that stands in the way of us being creative–it’s the better for all of us.” – Joe Devoy
If you haven’t visited or at least heard of Lancaster’s giant Tellus 360, you’re missing out on a remarkable force of community and creativity. The re-purposed wood furniture store is unmissable on the first block of King Street in Lancaster City, and to call the store simply a store is a terrible understatement. Tellus 360 (Commonly referred to as “Tellus”) is now three years old, and since its inception it has become an art gallery, a workshop space, a unique spot for roof-top yoga, a music venue, and most recently, a recording studio and restaurant. The past summer’s renovations have paved the way for this unique “Farmette” which serves dishes comprised of only locally produced food in what owner Joe Devoy describes as an attempt to “get closer to the land, get back to a simpler way of life, and back to supporting local farmers.” There is always something happening in this building, not to mention that you can buy everything from Irish antiques and beautiful armoires to all-wood guitars, jewelry, and local letterpress prints.
So, what does this have to do with the writing community? At Tellus, ask and you shall receive. They’ve begun adding poets to their monthly “Tabletop Sessions” which usually featured a line-up of three musical artists. This coming Thursday, November 7th, marks the first poetry performance at a Tabletop Session; Millersville’s Daniella Laudadio will be performing her poetry between acts. The Triangle has teamed up with Joe and his Tellus family to bring poetry to this event as well as a reading scheduled for December 8th featuring poets from Baltimore’s Furniture Press (more information coming soon!). However, these will not be the first literary events to take place at Tellus; last spring they presented a workshop series hosted by three different writers from Lancaster on a variety of innovative writing topics. These workshops brought in over 30 participants from the Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg writing communities. The Triangle was there, and we loved every minute of it. Looking forward, Joe seems dedicated to keeping the doors open to the creative literary community.
The Triangle recently had the chance to sit down with him and learn more about Joe as a business man, writer, and human.
Joe grew up in Ireland, attended college in Erie, PA, has lived in both Manhattan and Yonkers, and settled in Maryland—all before discovering Lancaster. He and and his crew bought the property on 24 East King street nearly seven years ago and the store known as Tellus 360 has been open for three years now. Although he has family still living in Annapolis, MD, he finds himself very attracted to the area, saying, “I used to come just every few weeks and then I started coming more frequently and I’ve just kind of fallen in love with the place and now I find myself spending more time here than anywhere else at the moment.”
“I don’t know if there is a plan, or if there ever has been a plan,” says Joe, talking of the natural transformation of the space into a music venue. He goes on, “We had two guys working for us who were in a band who wanted a place to play music so we opened it up…” These in-house concerts came to be deemed the “Tabletop Sessions” which now take place once a month at the store.
This seems to be the way things work at Tellus. Customers, community members, or someone on the staff will suggest an idea and they give it a go. I (Tyler) met Joe at the Poetry Aloud reading featuring Anis Mojgani last spring when he recited a heartfelt spoken word piece about his Irish heritage. As a sponsor for the event, Joe and his store were already supporting the local literary scene, but it was here that the community first saw him as an active writer. Tellus has since reached out to the literary community to bring these types of events into their space. “We just started doing more and more events…our philosophy is that if we think something looks fun we’ll give it a go and if we still think something is fun after giving it a go, we tend to keep doing it, and doing it more.” With the forthcoming literary events planned for Tellus 360, this type of attitude is reassuring.
When speaking about the past workshop series held at Tellus in spring 2013, Joe feels they were “absolutely successful,” mentioning that literary workshops or classes can often be intimidating and that the aim of any Tellus event is for the participants to feel welcome and comfortable. He elaborates, “I think hopefully what we provide is a place that’s welcoming to all regardless of age…a place anyone can come learn in an open, free environment where you can express yourself.”
Joe is hopeful and open-minded for the future of the literary arts at Tellus, saying, “We’d love to have regular writing classes… ultimately a bunch of writers hanging around the place and producing work.” Joe has been writing for five years and the Poetry Aloud event marked his first-ever spoken performance. He refers to writing as therapeutic and free-flowing. “When I’m writing,” he muses, “It usually brings clarity to something that is sitting on my mind.” You’ll hear in the recording of his poem “Connectivity” (listen below) a sense of a panicked, daily, stream-of-consciousness not unfamiliar to many of the Irish writers before him. It’s a sorting of the mind for a person—who, as you can imagine, leads a very busy life. Joe is certainly that person, but his business’s work here in Lancaster is much more than that. For as busy as Tellus 360 is on any given day or night, it is grounded in the reality of community and creativity.
Listen below to Joe’s poem “Connectivity”.
**(Note that there is some explicit language)**