Imagine a world (also imagine I’m speaking in that awesome movie trailer voice) overrun by starving artists, their idle hands the devil’s playthings. They stumble around like zombies, their inspirations slowly decomposing (also like zombies). One man has the courage to fight the vacuum of boredom, the vision to formulate a plan, and the free time to put the wheels in motion. That man is CRAIG BLAMER.
Cue the theme music! Montage of images that whip by so fast you only absorb the impression of excitement—something about kids and hammers and iced tea and an old run-down building getting pumped full of art and music and whatthefuckWASthat?!?
THIS IS YOUR OFFICIAL PREVIEW: something huge is about to happen—the ultimate summertime blockbuster—and it’s going to be happening LIVE, 100 percent improv, in real time, on location, starting now, and starring you (possibly). That something is The Barn.
But first, this flashback: Six months ago, Craig Blamer had the first sparks of inspiration that would become a full blown beacon for the arts community.
At first he considered creating a business, perhaps some kind of cafe that also hosted artists of all sorts. But as an artist himself—a writer and director—he was bothered by the capitalist nature of that approach. That’s the way every venue in town operates, which is fine in and of itself, but it often means that the creative people end up as commodities; making money for the business people, getting a minimal cut (if any) of the proceeds, sometimes even being asked to “pay-to-play.” The other downside to that is that if you’re less marketable or not very polished, there are very few opportunities to cultivate your talents in front of an audience.
He looked at the crop of amazing talent coming out of the Inspire school, and then noted how few performances take place at all-ages venues. The idea that they might have their creativity stifled right out of the gate was unacceptable.
A picture began to form: What Chico needs is a place for artists to get together and create, something focused solely on the spirit of art itself. A community center, a co-op; a clubhouse. He started to imagine something remarkable, and then…
THE STROKE CAUGHT HIM OFF GUARD. One day he was fine, maybe a little cranky about how shitty the selection of movies he had slated to review were, but that was nothing new. The next day he was in the hospital, derailed, a whole new set of challenges in front of him.
But facing his mortality only firmed his resolve. When you’re lying there, considering your life and what really matters, the grand ideals glow so much brighter.
Luckily—for him, and for all of us—Craig’s recovery has come along very well, and he’s making strides toward making his dream a reality. He started looking for a place large enough to facilitate a big community, and cheap enough that contributions toward rent and utilities would be minimal.
Walking past the dilapidated Auto Upholstery building at 164 E 11th st, part of that swath of blight just over the bridge from downtown on Park Ave, his wheels started turning. If anything could go in this building, caught between commercial and residential zoning, between the sins of business past and the budget woes of governments present, it was The Barn.
ENTHUSIASM FOR THE BARN CAUGHT LIKE WILDFIRE.
Within days of creating a facebook group (search facebook for THE BARN to join), the flood of ideas and contributions have proven that this is not only a viable concept, but that people are hungry for it.
At the time this article is being written, fundraising is already over a third of the way to the initial goal of $2500—the amount needed to cover the initial move-in, rent, and utilities for June and July. Beyond that, it should take only $1000 a month to keep it going (just $10 each if 100 people take part). There will also be ample talent involved to supplement that with performance fundraisers, in fact, Jason Cassidy is already organizing one—We Know The Score: A Movie-Music Cover Night, slated for June 22 at 1078 Gallery.
The one principle Blamer wants to stick to with this project is keeping it grassroots; away from dependence on government grants. It’s not that he’s a Libertarian, but he sees beauty in keeping every aspect of fundraising and oversight in the hands of Barn members; it can exist as an organically growing concept, thriving on the enthusiasm and sense of ownership that come from building it as a community.
Speaking of community, the residents of E 11th street have long been plagued by that cluster of boarded up buildings. The hope is that improving this building will improve the whole neighborhood, potentially inspiring new uses for the other structures in the complex. And, as a gesture of goodwill, there will be no amplified music to keep them up at night—which is more than I can say for half the neighbors I’ve ever had.
IF ALL COMES TOGETHER AS IT SEEMS LIKE IT’S GOING TO, The Barn will be a place where people can drop in and grab a cold glass of iced tea, watch Blamer’s vast collection of public domain films, try out new material in front of an honest audience, make movies, meet other artists, and collaborate. There’s enough space for it to become anything members can imagine—and considering the level of creativity in the people involved here, I’m guessing it’s going to be spectacular.
You can contribute to The Barn by volunteering your skills, donating tools, furniture, appliances or art supplies (follow the evolving list on the facebook page), or giving monetarily through Pay Pal (recipient: firstname.lastname@example.org, subject: The Barn).