Bedlam Lowertown: Arrivals and DeparturesSaint Paul, MN
Knocking down walls, painting, and filling the insides of Bedlam Lowertown (BLT) with visual art, the past month at Bedlam has been dedicated to preparing our new St. Paul, Minnesota venue for our grand opening later this summer. We were presented with the opportunity of testing our project theme (Arrivals and Departures) during this year’s Northern Spark, a Nuit Blanch festival that took place throughout the neighborhood. Northern Spark is a free annual arts festival that takes place in the Twin Cities; this year it attracted over 40,000 people with over 200 participating artists. In conjunction with Northern Spark, we organized a wide range of events and activities that would take place throughout the night.
Our night kicked off with the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Maya Society of Minnesota presenting Beaker + Brush, a lecture bringing art and science together as a part of the Science Museum’s latest exhibition, Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed. MnArtists.org and RAIN TAXI Review of Books converted the front of the venue into an Analog Cave, inviting the public to enter their Imaginarium, create a short written work from a variety of analog tools, and watch as it becomes a piece of illustrated artwork broadcast into the street. Meanwhile, a team of DJ’s (Rambo Salinas, DJ Tarik Thornton, & DJ Steely), as well as ten-piece Afrobeat band Black Market Brass, kept Bedlam literally dancing till dawn. Throughout the night, local restaurant partner O’Gara’s catered drinks and food, replicating the future post construction Bedlam bar/restaurant. Plus we had local graffiti artists Rogue Citizen make our bathrooms one of the hippest places to relieve yourself in Lowertown – Bedlam hospitality all around!
• 4,500 people previewed our space! We were consistently at capacity all night long.
• 4 distinct experiences all happening at once within the same space: dance party, Analog Cave, food and drink, science and art!
• Cameo from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and St. Paul Director of Arts & Culture Joe Spencer. Joe Spencer, one of BLT’s biggest fans, cut a rug on the dance floor.
If you got it, flaunt it. Rather than waiting for the finished product, giving the public a glimpse into a work in progress is more than just exciting for them; it’s informative for you. Over the past year and a half as we’ve been fundraising, planning, and designing our new space, the expectations for a programmatic “start date” have slid about quite a bit. Knowing thousands of people would be in the neighborhood for Northern Spark, we couldn’t resist taking advantage of the opportunity to introduce ourselves as a major partner with Union Depot and Northern Spark’s parent organization, Northern Lights.mn. In between ever rising project costs, extended lease negotiations, and navigating the contractor bidding process, we realized that we faced a serious question: do we play it safe and leave the space as we found it, or do we proceed with demolition and the challenge, expense, and logistics of temporary occupancy permits so the audience can experience the momentum of Bedlam-in-progress? Being Bedlam, we chose the latter option, and got our official certificate of occupancy less than 72 hours before we were scheduled to start Beaker & Brush. Somewhere in the mad dash of hanging lights, setting up stages, and decorating, Chief Artistic Officer John Bueche walked in the backdoor from Mears Park, and proclaimed, “This is my favorite Bedlam show yet!” Suddenly we knew what we were doing: we were already making theatre, Bedlam style.