“That’s what we want,” says Quinn, “kids to stay here and live here and build their own stuff. We just want to build an umbrella at the end of the day.”
Another volunteer, Christina Lee, who does design work for VIA, came to Pittsburgh from California to study at CMU in 2010, the same year VIA began.
“I never thought that I would end up in Pennsylvania in my early 20s,” she admits, “but I’ve enjoyed it a lot, and I think a lot of it has to do with VIA.”
“They’re not just bringing these great acts into Pittsburgh,” she continues, “but they’re fostering a really great local music scene. And it’s nice to go out in Pittsburgh and not go to an ’80s night or a ’90s night. We have the option to go to a great house or techno night, and it’s all local. That makes it even better.”
What makes the event’s success even more incredible is that Lauren and Quinn both work day jobs – she as marketing director for Carnegie Mellon’s art school, he as a freelance web and graphic designer. And while VIA is undoubtedly a labor of love for all the volunteers, both Quinn and Lauren muse over the event’s long-term sustainability.
They hope to attract more funding from nonprofit organizations down the road, and their goal is to have revenue come from an even split between ticketing, sponsorships and grant money. But without more funding, Quinn fears the event, at least it in its current form, may only have a few years left.
“If it stays the same that it’s at this year, then I’d say two more years. Financially this year should be a little bit better. But yeah, we need to start paying ourselves and getting these kids jobs and stuff.”
“Are we confident that it can become sustainable,” he wonders? “Yes. That’s the short answer. But can it be kept up? That’s the thing. Without being paid it’s really hard. It’s a whole other job that we’re doing while doing normal jobs. That’s not a sustainable thing in life.”
But for now, the only concern seems to be ensuring that this shared artistic vision comes to life over the next 10 days. “The festival is about being a creative roadmap for the city,” says Quinn. And that roadmap extends well beyond next week.
“We have our first show booked for 2016 already,” Quinn mentions offhandedly. “That’s how early it starts.”
VIA runs from September 24 – October 3. Many events are free but others require admission. Visit the VIA ticketing page for full details.