For the most part, we are intentional about who we spend our time with.

We choose who we celebrate with, who we tell our stories to, to whom we give our time.

But what if we were a bit more vulnerable? What if we opened our arms and opened our hearts to someone older or someone younger or someone you wouldn’t expect?

Craig Weinberg is confident we could learn a lot, and he’s eager to bring his Milbank, South Dakota, community to a space where there are no barriers: A space that we can learn from one another.

“I was homeschooled as a kid,” he says. “One of things I remember most and am most grateful for is the encouragement from my parents to be with adults and to learn how to do that. Yes, we had friends — we played outside with our peers from sunup to sundown. But as I got older, I also knew how to interact with adults as a teenager, and that was rare in my circle of friends.

“But I want that for my kids, and I want that for every kid in this town to understand and be comfortable interacting with adults. And I also want these adults to be okay with interacting with the kids. So how do we bring them together?”

He’s calling it The Studio, a large building on Milbank’s Main Street “for opportunity and connection, and a space to impart wisdom among different generations.”

And isn’t that what a small community is about, anyway?

If there’s any joy that living in a small town brings, shouldn’t it be just that? — the luxury, comfort and simple indulgence of knowing who we call home with. Knowing who we share our Main Street and post office and neighborhoods with. Familiar faces and familiar stories. That’s charming and unique, but if you ask Craig, we owe it to ourselves and to our fellow community dwellers to get to know one another just a bit more.

To be intentional about fellowship, who we have our conversations with and with whom we share our stories. And if we have a warm and welcoming space to do that, how can we not be a better community?

How could we not feel absolutely at home?

Accommodating a community

Craig and his wife, Sarah, own VPD Studio, a photography, art and design company in Milbank. It’s been their life work for eight years now, and they are great at what they do. But since recently acquiring full use of the Main Street building they house their business in, they are ready for so much more.

They are ready to invite the community in to use the large and beautiful downtown space, too.

“What it will look like is a space that people can come and get everything they need,” Craig explains. “Business-wise, it’s a facility that will accommodate videographers, web designers, graphic designers, photographers.”

Accommodate being the key word. He wants to build this space into something for all ages, all walks of life, any endeavor.

“I’m just aiming for a demographic that wants to connect, wants to create, wants to enjoy and participate in that atmosphere.”

In their mind — and in this dream that Craig has been working to fulfill for so long now, really — The Studio is an art-, creative-, design-, fellowship- and community-focused space where everyone is welcome to “learn how to be a creator in all aspects of life.”

The building will house different entities, but first things first: Coffee.

“I want to create an atmosphere that encourages communication, connection, community, lingering and getting to know people,” he says. “But to do that, we have to offer something. And in my mind, that’s dynamite coffee.”

There will also be a large warehouse where they will continue to shoot photos for VPD Studio as well as offer community classes. “Painting, pottery, sewing, building. There’s a bunch of stuff we can do in that large space — and we will build a children’s program for art classes there, too.”

Other plans include a library corner, a stage for music, and if he’s really thinking big?

“My long-term goal is humongous,” Craig says. “I also have a radio station / recording room that I’m building, which will house podcasts that we want to produce, voiceover work for our films that we plan to do.”

The well is infinite, the ideas will keep coming, but today, the work is in manageable steps, and there’s a sketch he drew of the space hanging on his wall to remind him of what’s to come.

All in good time.

Building in faith

If there’s anything else that’s inspiring and manifesting and helping to build this dream, it’s the faith that Craig and his family use to fuel their work — and their life.

“Four years ago, Sarah hosted a Bible study here with a bunch of ladies, and it was phenomenal,” Craig says. “It was a neutral place. It didn’t matter the denomination you were a part of, it didn’t matter which church you were affiliated with or if you even had a church. You could come here, and they just dug into The Word.”

In the end, it is a sense of fellowship and a coming together in faith that will bring The Studio to its truest, most meaningful existence.

“It’s who we are as people, and I believe that should leak out into everything else we do.”

And, it’s intentional. For Craig and Sarah, all of this work in Milbank is done with faith, purpose, conviction and heart.

And it’s all for you.