Welcome Back, Northern!

Northern is back! Finally.

We had a soft opening just in time for Olympia’s annual spring ArtsWalk this past April. I’m talking by-the-skin-of-our-teeth kind of opening — the space still reeked of paint (I don’t think the restrooms were even dry yet) and the floor was covered in some weird red vegetable dust that supposedly helped remove oil from the floor. Art was hung, the walls were white and the space was presentable, so we gladly welcomed the public in to check on our progress.

The space was originally a machine/ repair shop for decades; we even found old Olympia phonebooks dating from the early 60s! Industrial in nature, the building was constructed using cinder blocks. There are two garage bay doors that lead into the space, on separate walls. Several years ago when the old machine shop tenant passed away, his widow declined responsibility of his possessions left in the building. There they sat, collecting dust, a hoarder’s dream. We first looked at the space in November. It was very difficult to envision a multipurpose space within its cluttered, dirty footprint. We started negotiations for renovating the space in early December with the building owner, and we were promptly shut down until late January due to licensing issues with the city. Finally, the city relented, we got our Assembly License and the property owner went to work getting rid of literally tons of stuff left by the previous tenant.

The pictures below are after the initial few purges. Unfortunately, I don’t have images of what the space looked like in late 2011. These photos are from February. Just imagine this space with triple (not an exaggeration!)  the amount of STUFF:

Bob is standing in the current Gallery space, looking out into the show space:

Gallery space – the back wall now houses the bathrooms. That interior room to the left is where we have the green room and our office.

Inside the green room, which we painted blue. This room still needs a lot of work.

Inside the main show room where bands play. Notice the nasty insulation coming off the ceiling.

It took the property owner several months to empty the space, demolish old walls and frame new ones to fit our agreed upon floor plan. He ripped the insulation from the ceiling, re-roofed the entire building, installed heaters (suspended from the corner above) re-caulked windows and even replaced cinder blocks as needed.  He also knocked out part of the wall to install a new front entrance into the main venue!  This is the corner of the main show space.

Framing in new gallery walls!!

And the bathrooms!

The roof is tilted; it’s much higher on the backside of the building.

New insulation was then installed with white plastic covering. The beams of the building were also reinforced in some areas, giving the space a definite industrial feel, acknowledging its past. Mariella and crew primed the space in one night, having to first wire brush EVERY inch of the cinder block walls to remove debris.

The gallery all framed, hung, taped and primed, looking toward the bathrooms in the back.

Yes, that old chimney is still there. The wood burning stove, however, has been removed. Again, the historical nod, that re-purposed wink!

Finally, days before ArtsWalk, we started to paint. And paint. And paint. And then sweep, and scrub and sweep. And, oh! Then the mopping!

I think it’s fair to say that everyone was exhausted as we opened our doors to the public for the very first time. I know I had paint in my hair and on my clothes. Not to mention a stress headache that would not quit. Talk about a labor of love! Welcome Back, Northern!! I missed you! I think it’s safe to say that Olympia did as well.

All ages, all the time!

The Hive Dwellers, as is the tradition, played our first show in the space that weekend, along with some high school bands. This photo shows a later set  by the Hive Dwellers from a couple weeks ago, during their record release party.

More photos forthcoming, of course! We’ve since installed gallery lights, a projection screen, baseboards around the walls, and had the floor professionally buffed and cleaned. The space is looking sharp, slowly but surely. By the end of the summer, the mains will be mounted to the ceiling, more sound insulation will be added and hopefully stage construction will be underway (one that the bands will not be able to fall through this time).

I know there are a lot of Olympians that lurk this site, filtered in through Olyblog, so hey! Hello! Northern needs you!

We need volunteers to help with promotion, gallery sitting, website updating, Facebook invites, running live sound, and people to take money at the door during shows. Perhaps you have a skill or an idea that you want to share? We also offer internship opportunities for college students wishing to earn credit in non-profit arts management. Our meetings are the third Monday of every month, right at Northern (414 1/2 Legion Way) at 8pm. We host sound workshops monthly to teach newbies how to run sound – LADIES! Step UP! And don’t worry, you shadow with our staff before we throw you to the wolves by yourself for the first time. If you do door shifts, you earn free passes to shows (and people think you’re cool). Gallery sitting allows the public to actually, you know, see our curated contemporary exhibits of emerging regional and national artists. There’s so much to do. Won’t you join us?

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