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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

And Now, The End Is Near
So I Must Face The Final Curtain

Spent part of last evening inside what's left of Consolidated Works, the multi-disciplinary arts center founded by my friend Matt Richter. It was the first time I'd been inside the space since the ConWorks board summarily fired Matt back in February 2005. Like a lot of other local artists, I fully recognize that Matt has his own unique strengths and weaknesses, and that administration is not particularly his strong suit. That being said however, Matt truly was the heart of ConWorks: as both its founder and biggest supporter, his lack of managerial skills were more than compensated by his drive, determination, audacity, deep roots in the local arts community, and his ability to raise considerable amounts of capital; all factors that his board completely ignored (to their own peril, as it turns out) or worse, were inexplicably unaware of in the course of his dismissal.

As a result, many of us who know Matt personally, who supported ConWorks' mission, and who had either witnessed or experienced a spate of similar board coup-d'-etats locally in the past few years were incensed, nay outraged, at his treatment. And that in turn resulted in a decided coolness both to the organization, and to its new Artistic Director, Corey Pearlstein, who although likeable enough in person, nevertheless took on the impossible task of trying to regain the support of a community that had completely lost faith in the institution he was running.

And so now, ConWorks is closing up shop after more than a year of lack-luster programming (despite a handful of nationally-recognized artists coming through the doors), having been reduced to little more than a rental venue for raves, civic events and a seemingly endless pageant of futile fundraising parties. It's rather sad, because a lot of people put a lot of sweat-equity into creating the space (myself included), and now all that effort is just sort of going down the drain.

And from what I saw last night, it's going out not with a bang, but with a decided whimper. Although they still have a full month to vacate the premises, the place already seems to be regressing back to the the abandoned warehouse it was before the renovation: piles of detritus litter corners and causeways; most of the fixtures, lighting, etc., have been stripped from the interior; other items that might have some usefulness lie strewn about like so much derelict cargo washed ashore, a fine coating of dust testifying to their state of abandonment.

Aside from a skeleton staff, there doesn't seem to be anyone around looking after what remains: I was able to walk in through a side door, past a band rehearsal, and through the space with impunity, without the slightest challenge to my presence. Doors have been left ajar, leaving sound & lighting equipment, barware - including entire shelves of alcohol - abandoned and ripe for "salvage" by some enterprising individuals.

Describing the place as "sad" would be a gross understatement; "depressing" would be more accurate.

The reason I was even there was because a group of Annexers went in last night to further the dismantlement of the space. In typical "we have no idea what we're doing" fashion, the ConWorks board had planned to sell-off a rather expensive set of theatrical drapes and accompanying hardware, until some particularly astute individual pointed out to them that their purchase had been part of a grant from a local funding organization, and that they didn't actually "own" these items. In fact, the terms of the grant stipulated that if they were not going to be using them, they were obligated to either loan or re-grant them to another non-profit. Luckily one of our amazingly terrific, smart, and on-the-ball staff members just happened to be around at about that same time, and casually mentioned that we could really use a set of black drapes in our new little theatre. So, it was decided they would "loan" the curtains and all accompanying hardware to us, until such time as they might secure a new space and require their use again.

The only slightly minor downside to this arrangement was that we would have to come in and dismantle the curtain rigging ourselves, and arrange to transport it up to our space on CapHill. But, with the combined assistance of eight staff & company members, and a very friendly house Technical Director (on his last day of employment, no less), we were able to pull all the running gear down, load it up into the back of a borrowed pickup, and motorcade our way up to our space just in time to get most of it into the theatre during a rehearsal break for another show using the CHAC mainstage.

Now we have a very nice set of heavy black drapes, along with about 300 linear feet of tracks and swivel arms, which, once rigged, will enable us be to completely black out our 30' wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as provide some additional sound-dampening in the space, with plenty left over to create "wings" in the playing area where actors can hide and set pieces can be stored out of sight of the audience.

So, yeah - yay us! But, I do feel somewhat melancholy about the fact that our good fortune has come at the expense of another group's demise; even though it was a result of their own hubris, and sheer incompetence.

Still, hurray for gift horses and not looking in the mouth.

Posted byCOMTE on 10:04 AM

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