Commune builds community in Hyde Square

HYDE SQ.—In the heart of Hyde Square, an unusual household is thriving. With nine residents ages 22 to 65, the heARTbeat Collective at 35 Wyman St. is responsible for no fewer than six ongoing dance, arts and sustainability programs, some operating internationally.

As part of their programming, heARTbeat also occasionally hosts concerts and festivals that are open to the public.

Cooperative living, or living with a group of people who all each get an equal say in how the community is run, is not a model for everyone. But for those who enjoy it, it is a no-brainer.

“It’s a really incredibly rewarding experience,” resident and homeowner Jason Cohen told the Gazette. “But it’s really hard work to hold what we hold here.”

The house started to behave like a commune about 10 years ago, but by 2006, it was all “official,” Cohen said.

“I believe that when a group of people share values and share a sense of shared responsibility for a household that we can co-create a more beautiful and fulfilling way of life,” resident Gregory Reinauer said. He moved into heARTbeat in January.

Another heARTbeat resident, Una Gallagher, moved into the home with her husband about five years ago, 37 years after moving out of her first commune.

“My husband and I wanted to return to a more simple way of living and help to co-create a more ‘tribal’ way of being in relationship with fellow humans on a daily basis,” she said.

With the imminent closure of artist commune and influential underground music venue Whitehaus at 10 Seaverns Ave. following a police raid of a concert, heaARTbeat must keep on its toes to avoid the same fate.

“Our events are drug- and alcohol-free, and that’s the biggest piece,” Cohen said. “It’s not about partying. We do more ceremony, interfaith work, indigenous teachings, survival and awareness skills, and music, singing and dancing. It’s just not worth risking losing the ability to do what we do by having a big party scene here.

“When I heard about Whitehaus closing, I was really disappointed. And it furthered my resolve to keep working things the way we’ve been,” he continued.

Projects currently based out of heARTbeat include international dance festival Forestdance; Sacred World Interdependence Day, a “healing and expressive arts festival”; various community gardening and improvement projects; and classes taught by visitors.

“We’re a healing and expressive arts organization that brings in brings teachers and eclectic spiritual events that inspire people…often through nature and ecology,” Cohen said.

And heARTbeat is showing no signs of slowing down. In the past few months, it has welcomed San Francisco blues singer Erin Burke, held a Native American drum workshop and a wilderness survival educational day. Many other varied events happened last year alone.

“[Living at heARTbeat] is a great experiment on how we might come to embody the understanding of the importance of working together, that there is enough for everyone’s basic needs, that humans can care for one another in ways that have been lost. My belief that this is a way to begin to heal the wounds of humanity, thereby healing our world,” Gallagher said.

HeARTbeat has its website at

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