Unique Central Square holiday shopping includes Out of the Blue gallery, six more (update)
This weekend brought the grand opening of the Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery & More after a months-long soft opening that saw a space empty since 2009 fill with art and craft fairs, board game nights and even a women’s wrestling event.
After a summertime rent increase at its hole-in-the-wall space on Prospect Street, gallery founder Tom Tipton found the former Central Square Blockbuster video store, 541 Massachusetts Ave., to be surprisingly affordable – although still a big leap in money for a ragtag, community-based arts center where the staff is mainly volunteer, the works are affordable and “artists of all abilities are given a chance” to show their work.
The cost of heating the massive, windowed space has also come as something of a shock to Tipton and co-owner Hope Zimmerman. She said the 6,000 square feet making up the new gallery space was more than twice the size of the old site.
But that also means space for far more stuff, and so far the balance has been a success. “We have something for everyone. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Zimmerman said Friday. “We exceeded our sales goal in November by quite a bit, and we thought the goal was insane. For the first month of business, that’s unheard of – but it’s Christmas, and people have been good about trying to buy local.”
Out of the Blue Too has a great opportunity to fundraise further this weekend by combining people’s need for holiday shopping with the chance to let loose and celebrate a new, eclectic city arts amenity – one close to the red line T stop at Central Square yet gifted with an adjacent public parking lot.
The grand opening party was free for the family-friendly hours of 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., with live music and kids’ project tables set up with things such as painting, leather, crafting and sculpting added to the displays of arts and crafts for sale. From noon to 6 p.m., the music was to be by Sam Franklin, Molly Pinto Madigan, Ryan L.A. Sweezy, Prateek Poddar, Anna Snow, Steve Nardone and Max Bailey. Transitioning from day to night, music starting at 6 p.m. was to include Audrey Harrer, Hands To The Sky, Anubis Pop, Jarva Land, Earth Heart, John Garrett and Crazy People.
From 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. the event was to become 21-plus and entry $10 at the door. “We will turn the lights down, open the beer and wine bar and rock out with an bunch of local live bands and even a DJ dance party to close the night out,” Zimmerman said.
Late-night music was to be provided by Streight Angular, All Eyes on Me and DJ Main Fader, and there will be a performance by All the Rest Burlesque and body painting of volunteers by Adam Canvas Giangregorio.
The gallery is open for increasingly last-minute holiday shopping, along with a handful of other uniquely Central Square shops – together making for a very walkable urban marketplace of unusual and creative gifts for the people on your list who aren’t expecting a gift card to Forever 21.
Here’s a look at what you’ll find at Out of the Blue and some other less conventional Central Square shopping opportunities:
Out of the Blue Art Gallery Too, 541 Massachusetts Ave. Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Call (617) 354-5287.
There is a staggering array of goods in the new Out of the Blue, where the art extends from the stuff you hang on walls (some of this is also quite cheap, such as some antique-looking fruit labels for $10) to skateboards, T-shirts, tchotchkes, tree ornaments and leather and knit goods. Here are some highlights at the low end, for buyers on a budget:
Hope Zimmerman’s own Leather Pixie ribbons, bags, cuffs and masks starting as low as $5.
T-shirts by Dave Tree starting at $20.
Roger Gordy’s “Imaginary Creatures” series for $25 each.
Knit goods, including “Boston Strong” caps for $28, footies for $30 and scarves for $35.
Glass ornaments for $35.
Marshall’s retouched photos of local landmarks for $150.
At the higher end, there’s extraordinary art from Daniel Oran, whose “Irradiation No. 57” goes for $5,000. Oran practices “totally avant-garde” experimental photography featuring lasers in a darkroom, artist and gallery volunteer T.J. Edson said. “He believes no one has ever used this process, which is essentially photography without a camera. I think they’re amazing.”
Edson’s own work is on display, including his 6-foot-by-4-foot “An Abstracted Expression of Intrigue and Fear,” done with graphite on paper and selling for $1,200.
Perhaps the most expensive item in the store: Elizabeth Jacobs’ “Reflections,” at $6,000. (Her work is sold online by Saatchi for far more.)
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that Out of the Blue T-shirts are just $10.
Cheapo Records, 538 Massachusetts Ave. Open seven days a week at 11 a.m. Closing time on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays is 7 p.m.; on Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m.; and on Sundays, 5 p.m. Call (617) 354-4455.
Cheapo, open since 1972, stocks several hundreds of thousands of albums on vinyl and compact disc, new and used, including items “you can’t find anywhere else … in any genre, from easy listening to heavy metal,” said buyer Jeff Mack, who’s been around long enough to see vinyl’s resurgence as a force after being written off decades ago. “Vinyl accounts for most of our sales. The younger generation has been bitten by the vinyl bug – enough to cover the slowdown in CD sales.”
There’s plenty here at the low end, with used CDs starting at $3.99 in every genre and most vinyl starting at $4.99. There’s even a discount for people who pay with cash.
As to what holiday buyers might find for the cool people on their list, Mack just digs into the “new arrivals” bin for some samples, including an out-of-print Billie Holiday re-issue for $9.99 and a super-rare first pressing of Metallica’s “Kill ’Em All” – from before Metallica signed with a major label and the album was re-issued – for $49.99.
You might want Smashing Pumpkins‘ “Adore” on vinyl for $29.99, since the exhaustive digital set just went out, or to become one of only 500 to 1,000 owners of this bootleg of a Velvet Underground show for $24.99.
Hubba Hubba, 2 Ellery St. Open Mondays though Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. Closed Sundays. Call (617) 492-9082.
Central Square’s signature sex store moved in January from the square’s heart to the nether regions closer to Harvard, but the store seems very Central in spirit, and it’s still a bazaar for gear and garb with a spirit both nostalgic (vintage cigarette cases) and naughty (corsets and lingerie). The hierarchy of asked-for items around the holidays leads with sex toys and gives lingerie the silver and BDSM gear the bronze, but Hubba Hubba also has all kinds of shoes for men and women, dresses, goth or steampunk jewelry and leather jackets to be worn one the street rather than in the boudoir or dungeon. “We have so many different things,” said Reign, and many things come in ranges: There are fuzzy handcuffs for $16 or handmade, locally made leather cuffs for $85.
Vibrators run the gamut from $10 bullets to a $229 Lelo, and probably the most expensive item in the store is a toy called simply “the eleven” by njoy, the Fall River-based manufacturer.
Probably the funniest item in the store, though: Some Cambridge Police leather jackets, which Reign said came in bulk from someone’s basement.
Shoppers were invited to come by between noon and 8 p.m. for the store’s holiday party. “All day Saturday we will have wine and snacks and perhaps even some live models,” according to the party’s event page. “Come drink, shop and be merry with your favorite kinky store!”
Rodney’s Bookstore, 698 Massachusetts Ave. Open Mondays though Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Open Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. Call (617) 876-6467.
There are hundreds of thousands of used books in Rodney’s, but also holiday cards for less than $1 and calendars for $6.50, as well as art and other knick-knacks for sale. There’s also plenty of time to get posters printed – as cheap as $8 for a 14- by 18-inch print and only $30 for the largest size, 44 by 64 inches.
And while you can browse the stacks for genre fiction and an endless variety of nonfiction, Rodney’s tends to shine in coffee table art books and has plenty of fascinating finds in antiquarian and rare books. Worker Tom Quitadamo pointed to a first edition of Jack Kerouac’s novel “Vanity of Duluoz” for $275 …
Or such oddities as “The Pop-Up Kama Sutra” for $12.75 and a rare Dr. Seuss book – with a publishing date of 1939, it’s one of his first – called “The King’s Stilts” for an almost nonsensically affordable $12.50. “It’s a really cool story,” Quitadamo said, describing typically Seussian themes of a peninsula below sea level protected by trees that are eaten by birds who are warded off by the king’s army of cats.
Weirdo Records, 844 Massachusetts Ave. Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call (857) 413-0154.
While 10,000 items is an impressive amount to cram into this driveway-sized storefront, it’s also impressive that Angela Sawyer stepped up six years ago to set up a niche music business only blocks away from Cheapo Records. What sets her store apart?
“The name of the store is literal,” Sawyer said. “I sell exclusively experimental records.” Some are by avant-garde artists who wanted to try some interesting and unusual sounds; some are by “people who could only make the kind of records they make … records by people who never learned to play music. People who are missing body parts, or maybe head parts.”
You might try looking among her collection of international music, whether it be re-issues of West African music from the 1970s in the “Bambara Mystic Soul” series featuring the “raw sound of Burkina Faso 1974-1979” or the “Congo Guitar” series of field recordings made by Hugh Tracey, including one album that covers just 1952-57.
Or check out the assortment of unusual 1970s horror and softcore soundtracks, including this “L’uccello Dalle Piume di Cristallo” collaboration between legends Ennio Morricone and Dario Argento for $30.
One of Weirdo’s best-selling items is also among the cheapest in the store: a cassette compilation of Thai music from the 1970s, when local musicians heard rock bands and realized an indigenous wind instrument sounded like the popular Farfisa organ. “When they got hold of The Beatles and The Ventures,” Sawyer said, “they threw in some drum tracks and made a really tasty mess.” The album sells for $5.
But perhaps the most expensive item in the store is the recent re-issue of “Four Manifestations on Six Elements,” which Sawyer’s extensive website describes as “scrumptious drones, two on Bosendorfer pianos and two on electronics, that were originally made for a gallery installation” by noted 1960s and ’70s avant-garde eccentric Charlemagne Palestine. This bicoastal weirdo genius might make music by playing two notes as fast as possible, or singing while hurling himself at padded walls. You can own the drone of “Four Manifestations on Six Elements” for $118.50.
There are other stores in Central Square worthy of some browsing:
Try Pandemonium Books & Games, 4 Pleasant St., for new and used books, magazines and games of all sorts in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genre. The store is open seven days a week from noon to 10 p.m. Call (617) 547-3721.
The Boomerangs thrift store, 563 Massachusetts Ave., has all manner of used stuff, from clothing to books and housewares, at bargain prices. All proceeds from sales support the AIDS Action Committee, which runs the chain. The store is open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (617) 758-6128.
This story was updated Dec. 21, 2014, to reflect that Saturday’s events at the Out of the Blue Too Art Gallery & More and Hubba Hubba have passed. The original headline was “Unique Central Square holiday shopping includes grand opening at gallery today.” It was updated Dec. 24, 2014, to correct that it was All the Rest Burlesque that performed at the gallery grand opening.