Most who become involved in the Poppy would agree that the place is special- it is homey, it is full of love and it contains an inimitable spirit. Nancy Appel, a volunteer with the Poppy since 2009 says that the word volunteer is fine, but “that doesn’t necessarily connote the degree of attachment.”
One fateful show five years ago, Nancy took the Poppy folks seriously when they said “We’re always looking for volunteers.”
“I don’t create art,” Nancy admits. “I conceived this was an artistic community and I thought , what do I possibly have to add? There was the nerdy school girl who thought, ‘They might not like me!’ but I finally stepped up!”
Nancy’s first performance was one of traditional Cambodian dance. “I worked the door,” Nancy says with a smile on her face, “I was meeting all sorts of neat people I wouldn’t otherwise have met in the course of my daily life.”
“It spoils you for other venues cuz it’s so tiny,” beamed Nancy, “ You’re bumping knees with the trombone players,” Nancy said, when I asked her about what makes Poppy such a special place.
“My attachment to the place has certainly grown over time,” Nancy declared, because the place provides an artistic experience that keeps her engaged on multiple levels. “It’s hard to just stare at musicians, especially if you don’t have a particularly good view- the art on the walls gave me something visual to look at.”
An image of the art that was hanging on the inside of the 23rd street wall as I first entered the Poppy came to mind. Three paintings by by Todd Thomas Brown,founder of the Poppy, were draped boldly against the white wall. Words shone through musty blues, filling the room with a calm yet determined artistry.
“I loved the physical space, [it] was appealing on all sorts of levels- to my ears, to my sights” and volunteering, Nancy said “was a chance to contribute something.”
As those who have been involved in the Poppy have witnessed, contributing a bit to the space grants you with gifts threefold in return. Nancy disclosed, “At the end of a week, you have grumpy-face on. Part of you wants to go home and not deal with the world. Then I would come to the Poppy and turn that frown upside down… and before I realize it, I’m actually in a better mood. It’s always a nice tonic at the end of the week.”
-Red Poppy Art House Writer, Aleksandra Bril