An interview with Kristin Kunhardt – The Inception – Reprinted with permission from Unlocking Litchfield interview, May 2017
Was there a pivotal moment that you decided to open Valley Spirit or has it been on your mind for a long time?
Lee Kancher and I were talking about finding a design studio space to share back in November 2015. We enjoyed working side by side and getting out of our mutual “home offices”. The idea grew to include a place where Jampa Stewart could practice acupuncture and teach meditation and tai chi. By February 2016 I secured the space that has since become Valley Spirit. After seven months of renovations we opened our doors in November 2016, almost a year to the day after the idea took root.
What was your vision/mission for Valley Spirit?
Our three unique businesses (Indigo Sky World, Right Brain Group, Healing Tao Institute) share a clear mission: to contribute to community by offering services, teachings and products that support healing and growth, while enhancing awareness, communication, good health, peace and consciousness. We are an art co-op and wellness center and a gathering place for conversation and community.
Valley Spirit is a cooperative – please explain.
The three of us opted to “cooperate” with one another in a single space, bringing together visual and performance art (Kristin), design and graphic art (Lee), and healing and movement arts (Jampa) so that we might all benefit from one another’s strengths and learn from one another’s weaknesses. The “all boats rise” mentality, which is often lacking in mainstream business, led the way. We decided to open up the space to other practitioners and artists that shared our mission, uniting to meet common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations.
If we all carry a small piece of the larger nut, we increase our capacity to serve the community and one another’s businesses. (Down the road we may also embrace the more traditional cooperative aspect of joint or shared ownership.)
How big has the “cooperative” become at this point?
As of now we have six people teaching movement classes and eight people teaching or practicing healing arts. We have, to date, featured the art of ten local artists.
What did you do before Valley Spirit?
Lee had, and still has, his graphic design company Right Brain Group in Philadelphia. He has a background in shiatsu massage, also. Jampa had a successful acupuncture practice and teaching schedule based in Austin, Texas and Crestone, CO. Prior to that he had a successful bookstore in Rochester NY. I was running my own dog walking company outside Philadelphia for the last twenty years. Before that I was a touring musician and involved in theater.
You opened in November – what has been the response?
The response has been very positive and supportive. Many folks comment we are “just what the town needed”; that they are happy these classes and treatments are “right in their back yard”, that we are “ a gem just waiting for people to find us”. Many people who are coming in for treatments have had some very positive shifts in their health. Word on the street, I am told, is “all wonderful”.
What’s trending? What class/service seems to be the most popular?
The acupuncture and massage practices have been growing quite steadily, as have the classes. We listen attentively to the folks that walk through our door and add classes they want at times they want them. So truly, all of our services have an even growth pattern at the moment, because we continue to evolve as we receive feedback.
You have a lot of beautiful photographs of your trips to Iceland in the studio. What is your connection to Iceland?
I visited Iceland three years ago, twice. It is rich in its primordial power. The fire, ice, sea, wind, sun, steam. Rugged, breath taking country. I was there during a period of great personal transition; it was right before I decided to move back to Washington, my hometown. Iceland allowed me to clear my head and heart so I could find my true North. It became clear that that was being back home near my dad. Valley Spirit grew out of the stability my hometown afforded me when I was a child. 35 years later, I am here to give back to that hometown, with the talents and gifts of healing that Valley Spirit has to offer. Roots run deep. It is good to be home.
vision keeper & CEO of Valley Spirit