The Barn: A Haven For The Starving Artist

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.


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:, subject: The Barn).

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Managing Editor for Synthesis Weekly. Amy likes to make clothes, plant flowers, and chase butterflies.


  1. Michele Shover says:

    Our 11th Street neighborhood does not consider your plan a proper use. The building is small, badly wired, poorly lighted inside and on the street outside, has inadequate exits, inadequate plumbing, the ceiling leaks, it is regularly broken into by transients (why the last tenant gave up on it) and exposes building users to the unsavory men who regularly break into the adjoining buildings within feet of it.. Some, the police told us, have criminal warrants. One or two tried to burn down the building right next to it. Police are regularly called in to address threats and respond with at least 2 cars. Bringing a lot of people into that area at night endangers them and will only add to the area’s severe problems. The landlord who keeps the building in that condition is now under legal scrutiny for his practices on that property. Your followers will be happier and safer in another venue. All best, MS

    1. Tommy Treacle says:

      Pretty sure that as long as everything is done above board and through proper channels then you have no area to complain, and it is up to the folks that want to try their hand at this to either succeed or fail. Can’t you at least let them try to better the neighborhood with this project – especially since you’re disgusted with how the current owner is not taking care of the space?

  2. Suzanne Whittaker says:

    Our? Who – you and the mouse in your pocket?
    Who went and made you some fascist block captain of that shithole that is Chapmantown? You’d think the chance to have something – anything- positive go on in that neighborhood would be seen as a blessing. I bet you’re a lot of fun at parties. Craig – just tell us how to best be of service and let’s make this place a real beacon of creativity!

  3. emiliano says:

    yeah, Michele, though it’s primarily couched as an argument of concern for the potential patrons, your reaction also seems a little knee-jerk NIMBY…this place sounds awesome! It also seems like exactly the sort of thing that helps turn neighborhoods around; make them safer and more desirable to the creative classes. It’s funny, if this were a big city, there’d be letters about appropriation/gentrification and a concern that an artist collective would be the first step in the neighborhood becoming “cool” and, thus, more expensive and eventually yuppified. Luckily, there’s no Tech jobs/jobs-whatsoever here, so we don’t have to worry about that.

    And I’m pretty sure that being “poorly lighted inside” is not a real reason for anything.

    This town DESPERATELY needs something like The Barn, and, frankly, so does that neighborhood.


  4. Nicole says:

    Michele is correct, the space is run-down and poorly managed. It is consistently broken into and even though it keeps getting boarded up, they continue to find ways in. If the group is interested in keeping anything of value inside the building, they would need to budget for a professional security company to patrol at night. The parking lot is unfit to be used in its current condition, which means that fixing it would need to either be in the contract with the owner or budgeted in for repair. Overall in its current condition it is not operational. The neighborhood needs to find some caring people and business owners to help to turn it around, and hopefully this will help fuel that conversation. Just because this group is interested in moving into this neighborhood, doesn’t mean it’s a good fit. The Barn is a great idea, and yes, the Chico community will most definitely benefit from it. That doesn’t mean that just because they found a dilapidated building in a neighborhood that has been abused and forgotten, that is has found it’s home.

  5. Although 2 negative written responses have found their way into the public’s online version of this article so far, it’s important to remember that there are already over 145 ORGANIZED people in undeniable support of it. ^_^ I’ve already set up a miniscule $10-per-month recurring donation to Mr. Blamer and know it’ll go to good use. Even if all 150 of us ONLY pitched in $10 each per month, that sounds like it’ll be enough to keep the juices flowing. 🙂 Have YOU set up your donation yet? 🙂 Remember – the TRUE vote comes down to that in which you invest you time, passion, and money. 😉 Vote today, Lovelies. ^_^

  6. krista lewis says:

    in general, I don’t see what the excitement is about? I love the arts, but this building has no redeeming value. It should be condemned. If there are serious “starving” artists who need a venue, then why not tap into some of the other venues that already exist? 1078, drive by gallery, etc. and others?

    It is not a cool, groovy location and would need tons of work, and 1000/month? really? that seems high for a building that should be torn down.

    the entire thing sounds fishy and unrealistic. I would be wary of donating money to an individual person.

    I like the original idea, a place to artists to well, create, but again, why not tap into places where artists are already struggling, and lend them a hand.

  7. . says:

    How about a link since searching THE BARN doesn’t pull up what the article is about?


    1. Amy Olson says:

      Not sure why it didn’t come up for you in a search as it’s an open group, but here ya go – The Barn (added some embedded links in the article as well)