Volunteer Profile: Jacob Smith

How did you first hear about the Lotus organization?
As with most of the best things in my life- purely a happy accident. My freshman year at IU, I took a class that required each of us to join any campus organization. I randomly choose Union Board. At the call out meeting, I had to choose which section of the Board I wanted to be on, and I randomly chose the Live from Bloomington Committee. It was at one of these meetings that I first heard about volunteering for Lotus. I thought it sounded like fun, so I decided I’d give it a shot, and I fell in love with the festival immediately. Now here I am four years later and have never looked back!

What volunteer jobs have you performed?
A little bit of everything! For the festival I’ve worked backline, the merchandise tent, artist hospitality, and setup/tear down. I helped at the 4th Street Arts Fair making storytelling “Crankies” with and for the kids. I also spent a year as marketing intern, so I got to get my hands on lots of Lotus materials, helping with design, doing social media work, photographing events, and all of the daily goings on that help keep Lotus going.

Which volunteer experiences have you most enjoyed?  Why?
Honestly, everything. But a specific moment that really touched me was when I photographed Dance of Hope when they performed for Arlington Elementary as part of this year’s Lotus Blossoms program. There came a point for audience participation, and you should have seen the hands shoot up when they asked for people to come up and dance with them! Pure excitement lighting up every face. Those lucky few who were chosen stood in front of their peers, and as I watched the dancers help the students put on the same colored grass skirts they wore, I just remember thinking, “Oh man, this. This right here is exactly why Lotus exists.” The performers were from Uganda, and many of them were not much older than the children they were playing for. But despite a language barrier and growing up half a world apart, they could all recognize and interact with each other as peers, connecting at such a human level. No pretenses, no judgement, no division. Just a group of children dancing with each other, enjoying and sharing the music. It was truly a beautiful thing to be a witness to, and unquestionably my favorite Lotus memory

How would you describe to a friend why they should attend or volunteer for the Lotus Festival?
If you have any interest at all in music, the arts, or humanity at large, you’d be a fool not to come and at least check it out. The folks I’ve met through Lotus are some of the kindest and most welcoming people I’ve ever had the pleasure of getting to know. The music is fantastic, and volunteering is an instantly and continually rewarding experience. Don’t do yourself the disservice of letting this year’s festival pass you by!

What is your favorite Lotus moment (favorite band, street scene, etc)?
Aside from the Dance of Hope memory, I would say last year’s festival as a whole. After having spent so long working on the planning and promotion of the festival, getting to walk through the streets and seeing signs I had made, or watching people read over the schedule I had helped put together, it all felt incredibly validating. Even more amazing was when I stood at the door to help check in the artists as they arrived. All of the faces and names I had been working with over the summer as I put together playlists, arranging their pictures on promo materials, or copying bits of their biographies- getting to know them little by little- suddenly they were just there, right in front of me! It was totally surreal. And it was just as remarkable speaking to them and seeing how down to earth they were. I’ll never forget Rachel Sermanni introducing me to putting butter in my coffee instead of cream.

Last album you purchased?
I don’t know about the last I bought, but I walked away with a big haul a few weeks ago. I currently intern at Rock Paper Scissors downtown, and they have a closet absolutely jam packed with CDs from previous clients. One day they told me to help myself, and I had to forcibly remove myself because I had run out of room in my bag. Now if only the CD drive on my laptop would work…

What do students not realize they’re missing if they neglect experiencing the festival?
The better question is what aren’t you missing out on??? It’s the whole world condensed into a few city blocks over the best weekend in Bloomington (eat your heart out Little 500!) People from all walks of life coming together to celebrate the diversity of the world, some of the best musical acts on the planet, all of the food trucks you’ve come to know and love, and an air of connection, love, and acceptance that permeates absolutely everything about the weekend. That feeling is something that can’t really be expressed in words, so you’re just going to have to come and experience it for yourself!

Do it!

(But seriously, do it.)


Meet more Lotus Lovers who Light Up Lives!
Check back often for new profiles, and view the entire series here.

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