About a month after we first crossed paths in the local open mic circuit, 28-year-old Noah Grove quietly confided he was living out of his car by the beach. Then about a month later, during an intimate performance at the Filmmaker’s Gallery, he shared with the entire audience.
“It was a very … crying on stage kind of show,” he recalls with a laugh.
Last fall, the Tennessee native packed up his car with his guitar, kiteboarding gear and some clothes and drove cross country to Long Beach, fully committing to hone his artistry. A sensitive singer-songwriter with an evocative voice, he established a couple of regular gigs, including a weekly set at Paradise Bar, but it remained challenging to afford rent.
On that particular night at Filmmaker’s Gallery, his vulnerable performance moved someone he’d befriended at an open mic. There’s a spare room in her house, she told him, as well as old instruments she no longer used. This was her gift to him, one without obligation on his part.
Her spirit of generosity inspired Noah’s latest project, called The Artists’ Wishlist. It’s a platform for a gift economy among artists in Long Beach. Participants introduce themselves and their projects along with a list of their desirables; some also include a list of things and services they’d in turn like to gift.
“If things were made a little more public about needs and wants, that exchange would happen a lot more,” Noah says. “That’s the idea behind it: to help people be more vocal about what they want and be okay with receiving gifts.”
Noah believes most people are in a position to give, even if they have almost nothing. Through these exchanges that cut off any type of obligation, monetary or otherwise, an authentic relationship could emerge between the giver and receiver. These unconditional gifts — whether it’s time, skills, words, thoughts, knowledge or material goods — create the bonds that form a community.
“The relationship is important,” he says. “The gift should happen because you see something in a person and you really want to give to them and push them forward.”
Until the website, theartistswishlist.com, was launched last week, the project took form as a notebook, passed around mostly at The Red Barrel, where he hosts an open mic Tuesday nights. The list currently includes everything from a keyboard, guitar and loop pedals to canvases, hugs and sexual healing (“if possible”). Now, even if the two parties have never met in person, the artist could feel compelled to share their work online and connect.
“If people could see the gifts they give be put to great use and is received joyfully, I think you’d see gifts happening a lot,” he says. “I can’t force anybody to do this, but I’m putting an idea out there and making it very easy for it to happen.”
So far, donated gifts include two electric guitars, cash, a pair of studio headphones, pens, paper and a hug. For Noah, the energy he has poured into launching the project is his gift to this community and to his generous friend who inspired it.
“For me, community means to really see each other and care on a significant level about the growth of each person,” he says, “and seeing how that impacts and helps everyone else. If one person is doing really well, it’s good for everyone else. It’s like a chain reaction of growth.”