Alexandra Bullen, founder of Oyster MV, is a young mover and doer. I met her when I attended a free showing of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” that was part of a cult classic movie series at the M.V. Film Center around the holidays. When I entered the Film Center’s lobby, I was immediately taken with how many young adults were milling around chatting, eating the delectable snacks, and perusing the various pop-up shops for holiday gifts.
I initially asked Bullen about the movie series, but soon learned that the collaboration at the Film Center was part of a much bigger endeavor. Bullen explained, “I run a program called Oyster MV, which is a community network for young adults living year-round on the Island. Our target demographic is 18- to 30-year-olds, but most of our programs are open to everyone. I work in collaboration with lots of Island nonprofits, including the M.V. Film Society, to offer free social events, as well as professional development opportunities and skills-based workshops.”
I wondered how she got her great idea off the ground. “It started after my conversation with Community Services in the fall of 2017,” Bullen said. “The heart of our programming is actually not programming itself so much as creating a network — online and in real life — of young people on the Island. I run an Instagram feed (@oystermv) and newsletter that publicize local events and promotions that we think young people might enjoy. Other nonprofits know about us and will get in touch to let me know about any events they have happening that they want young adults to know about. In the past, these groups have included the Trustees, Felix Neck, the town libraries, the M.V. Museum, the M.V. Film Society, the M.V. Film Festival, and more.”
She said that businesses reach out to her to offer promotions or discounts as a way of spreading the word to a demographic that can be heard to reach. Some of the events Oyster MV has hosted include tarot card readings, a clothing swap, game nights, movie series, local maker pop-ups, and a bowling event in partnership with Cape Cod Community College. “We have an advisory board made up of folks in their 20s who come together to brainstorm event ideas and target partner organizations,” Bullen said.
Bullen shared that the germ of her idea started when she was thinking about different ways to collaborate with nonprofits and cultural organizations that already organize events in the community. “My initial idea was that there was so much happening in the community, but a lot of it wasn’t targeted at younger people,” she said. “So, I thought instead of reinventing the wheel, just go to these people who are offering these great events and see if they were open to tailoring events to a younger demographic.”
I then circled back to the movie series, asking how it had started.
“Richard Paradise was one of the first people who got really excited about the idea,” Bullen said, “and he had simultaneously gotten his own grant from Newman’s Own Foundation to do youth programming. So he was doing, like, a summer camp program, but he was looking for ways to engage the 20something population. We started brainstorming and came up with this idea to do a series that would be free, thanks to his grant.”
Bullen said she thought it’d be fun to tack on some social time before and after the films so people aren’t just watching a film in the dark and not talking to each other. “As you see, we mingle in the lobby beforehand,” Bullen said at the movie screening. “I had a Hula-Hoop contest last year. We always do raffles; pop-ups are great. I try to theme whatever we do with whatever the movie is.”
Thinking a little further out, Bullen said she’s working on a series of financial literacy workshops in collaboration with local banks, targeted at young adults looking to start their own businesses, or to get on top of their personal saving and spending.
“I’d love to eventually develop a website with comprehensive links to resources — professional, educational, social — for all Islanders to access,” Bullen said, “with a focus on young people just getting settled on the Island, or trying to put together the puzzle of how to live comfortable, meaningful, and happy lives here year-round.”
You can follow Oyster MV on Instagram: @oystermv.