LOOK WHAT YOU’ve DONE!!!!
oNe year IN.
Yes, look what YOU have done.
John Bueche here, jfb, bedlam Chief Artistic Officer.
As I reflect on one year of full operation of Bedlam Lowertown there is a lot to love. There are some things to learn. There is a lot to look forward to.
You’ve been named the Best Artsy Hang Out Scene 2015, place near the top of Ten Clubs Revitalizing the Saint Paul Music Scene, and cited as one of Eight reasons why the cool kids now live in Lowertown.
Before we get caught up in all the details, let me first and foremost LOVE the COLLABORATIVE effort. The working together. A year ago I was conscious of just how many people were working, had worked, on opening the venue, scene-making and show-making all the while. THIS YEAR I actually cannot even tell you WHO ALL was involved. In fact. May to May. I’d wager no one person can tell you. I think that once we’ve thoroughly added it up, cross referenced and added up all the information, this past 12 months of activity will be fully equally to any TWO previous years of Bedlam. Maybe three. And Bedlam’s had some big years. YOU have caused an exponential expansion of access.
What did you do? In a historic district, you turned a century old space into a one-room performance-club. Food and drink to welc
ome all comers. Two well thought-out sound systems. Some snazzy (though all used) lighting equipment to flexibly illuminate. Restored wood floor. Moveable steel-frame stage pieces (all at 26½ inches high). Efficient, flexible tools that let us say yes to, and professionally showcase, a wide range of performance styles, shapes and sizes; smooth enough to load-in, changeover, and sound check during open hours, as more of the creative process becomes a regular shared experience with the audience.
Delicious, sensible, local-ish food, coffee, beers and booze, with both reasonable prices (so one always feel like hanging around) and crafty prep and presentation (so one also feels like it’s a night on the town). You stayed focused on supporting full, regional momentum of transit & liveability; you reinforced 35 years of Lowertown momentum; you created a fresh new platform, for your stories, passions and personalities firmly planted in the Minnesota’s capitol city.
Since grand opening, you’ve hosted well nearly 200 live music shows, dozens and dozens of plays, dances, showcases, cabarets, convocations, lunches, receptions, infoshares, at least one doctoral disertation and whatever-you-call-that-contemporary-performance-type-stuff we let in her sometimes.
Catching John Steitz’s status update a few weeks back: speaking of the 6 widely different styles of live music he was mixing at BLT over the course of a given 4 days helps me understand who’s in the mix.
Seeing scenes of 40 person choir at the Not-For-Sale Minnesota benefit this past weekend helps me understand.
Hearing the reverberations of last years For The Love festival, and the excitement for this years event spreading all over Lowertown helps me understand.
MOST of the staff, curators and makers you’re loving down at Bedlam Lowertown joined the Bedlam organization just over a year ago, many the week before grand opening, some a few months or a year before, working on the ramp up. Watching the hands raise at every curtain speech and Q & A, usually half of each audience was new to Bedlam this year. Those of us who’ve been around for a few years, or decades, are so exhilarated, and even a little overwhelmed, at the breadth and depth of the be yourself/be the change goodness running so deeply in MN these days.
Certainly we’ve all been learning as the year goes on: working out the pre-information for the multiple performances that use the space each week, especially, say, when this one’s bringing in a confetti cannon, or that one is bringing in a couple grand-pianos; upping the efficiency of food and drink delivery, especially on big-crush crowds and some pre-show deadlines; planning for conversation spots and overflow in back corners and basement spots; making sure we’re building the curator network in a way that helps us reflect the Saint Paul and the Minnesota we want to see in the world.
For those of us for whom Lowertown is already a 4-year project, built on a full-service Bedlam experiment begun 9 years ago, integrating the community engaged style of performance we’ve been evolving for 22 years: thaNK YOU for blowing our minds everyday with so much new, so much real; for making this thing turn out just like we planned, and so many things we’ve never even imagined.
Now, for your bonus-blogging pleasure, some video-context on how we got to Bedlam Lowertown in the first place.
Bedlam started in 1993 in Saint Paul & Minneapolis. In 2007 Bedlam’s first Club opened, and in 2009 awarded Bedlam’s social-model the Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Initiative in the Arts: Ordway Award Intro Video.
Bedlam LOWERTOWN started in collaboration with the Irrigate Project of Springboard for the Arts and the City of Saint Paul wayyyy back in 2011. Lookit this video on Irrigate: Planting Creativity – Irrigate on TPT
Since we were being all Saint Paul now, we had to do some research on Saint Paul History Bedlam performance-style: Saint Paul History Tonight
When we first told you about Bedlam Lowertown we actually thought we might open in Spring 2012, and we did do some stuff in there in 2012, but renovations were needed, plan, rethink, fundraise, reschedule for Spring 2013. Then. Gddammit. Spring 2014: Lowertown is (not) Open 2013
Spring 2014, made a little video for a reminder that it actually would happen: The Goodness.