Out of the Blue Gallery has found a home at the old Blockbuster in Central Square, according to founder Tom Tipton.
“We gots it!” Tipton said in a Monday status update on his Facebook profile. “Feeing pretty fucking grateful and a whole lot of excited. Gonna be a whole lot of peeps happy.”
Landlord 3MJ Realty and its principal, Morris Naggar, would be leasing out the space for far below market rates in a move that would be a boost for the liveliness of Massachusetts Avenue and for the continuation of the Central Square Cultural District, a designation awarded by the state in 2012 and lasting five years.
“This is a hell of an opportunity. We can’t afford this, but he’s given us a chance,” Tipton said late Tuesday by phone. “We wrote a proposal, and he accepted it.”
Naggar and Central Square Business Association president Robin Lapidus couldn’t be reached by phone late Tuesday.
The gallery aims to raise up to $5,000 in the coming days to pay 3MJ Realty first and last months’ rent and get the needed insurance. There’s a crowdfunding drive at GoFundMe for a “New Blue Art Co-Op” that went live Tuesday night.
It was a rent increase forcing Out of the Blue Gallery to leave its home at 106 Prospect St. between Central and Inman squares, but Tipton believed the rent at the prime retail space on Massachusetts Avenue could be manageable with the help of donors responding to fundraising – and by sharing the space and splitting the bill. “Part of the mission is to get other people in there,” Tipton said.
The 5,000 square feet available at 541 Massachusetts Ave. will help, as the cramped nature of the Prospect Street space meant being able to get only up to 35 people in for shows, generally for $5 donations. “That pretty much caps the income,” Tipton said, calling the old space a “teacup, and now we have a whole pan.”
The gallery would be at home in Central Square in a space as prominent as the Prospect Street gallery was obscure, as expansive as Prospect Street was cozy and with floor to ceiling windows that could feel little like Prospect Street’s current eccentric dark and clutter. The Blockbuster comes with basement space that would serve as storage, Tipton said.
He aims to launch an accompanying, gallery-related nonprofit bringing art, music and theater skills to area youth and create a traveling art show that could visit hospitals and other institutions. These are some of the program “on the horizon,” he said.
The Blockbuster space has been empty since 2009, serving as occasional campaign headquarters and attracting attention as a potential home for the defunct ManRay nightclub or a PetSmart. Attorney James Rafferty said his client, ManRay founder Don Holland couldn’t move into the site because 3MJ Realty insisted on a one-year demolition clause that could cost Holland hundreds of thousands of dollars from turning the hollowed-out video store into a nightclub and restaurant with a stage, sound system and full kitchen.
“Eventually it’ll be developed into a big building, but we have a home,” Tipton said.
Out of the Blue would ideally move as soon as Monday but has a serious deadline around Sept. 10, Tipton said.
The community-based gallery was born in 1996 with the goal of making art affordable for artists and buyers, and many of its shows are benefits, the staff is mainly volunteer and “artists of all abilities are given a chance” to show their work, be it in painting, drawing, poetry, short story, acting or singing. Rather than focusing on high-end sales, the gallery has been a long-time gathering space for weekly poetry readings and storytelling, the monthly Dire Literary Series and dance and meditation and sound healing classes.