It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center becomes a nonprofit.

Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center

It's taken a sheaf of paperwork and an agonizingly long wait, but the Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center (3301 Lemp Avenue; 314-771-1096) has finally been granted nonprofit status.

This means that the venue — which is arguably ground zero for the city's noise and experimental music scene — now has the means to approach regional arts organizations, businesses and other entities to obtain grants and funds to sponsor events, concerts and other creative endeavors.

"To generalize, the biggest impact is that [becoming a 501(c)(3)] takes the threat of having to compete in the marketplace away," LNAC founder Mark Sarich says, "and allows us to be a little more far-flung in the programming we do, with the ability to guarantee that bands are going to be paid. Also, the kinds of programming we do can be more expansive than just producing a rock show."

The latter, in particular, is something that Sarich and the center's board of directors are actively pursuing. For starters, they're interested in renovating the 1860s-era townhouse connected to the center itself, to make it both eco-friendly and suitable as an auxiliary music space.

"We wanted to have a space to do more modest performances and workshops," Sarich says. "We also wanted to have a place where traveling artists can stay. That's perfect."

Although that project is farther off on the horizon, Sarich is currently talking with the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) to obtain funding for three ten-day residencies this summer. The aim of each session is to allow select experimental musicians to come to St. Louis and fully immerse themselves in their art.

Sarich envisions the visiting artists doing such things as writing and performing music; conducting "master classes," where they evaluate local musicians; or having forum-type discussions about music. (Although he'd originally planned for the residencies to be indie-rock-centric, Sarich is now pondering a workshop that focuses on exploring the city's late-'60s/ early-'70s free-jazz scene, from which there are few artists left.)

"The idea behind [these residencies] is multifold," Sarich says. "First is that our local kids will have the advantage of actually talking shop and learning from some of the best new artists in the country.

"Also, by spending over a week here, we can start building a reputation as a cool place to be for artists who currently are paying way more just to survive in ‘cool places' like Portland, Boston and the like. And of course it helps us in trying to prop up a local alternative scene which is as weak as most around the country."

Indeed, Sarich notes that the past few years have been "tough" for the LNAC financially. Expenses such as a newly installed wheelchair ramp, coupled with higher gas prices (a hindrance to the smaller touring acts that are the LNAC's bread and butter) and an ever-evolving hardcore scene ("There's this new version that's come up — it's more commercial, it's much more violent," Sarich says. "It's something I really don't want to book"), have affected the size of the crowds, as well as the amount and type of acts the LNAC presents.

Still, its upcoming schedule is as strong as it's been in recent months. Highlights include an appearance by orchestro-punk collective Defiance, Ohio; the return of the bedroom-electro act Casiotone for the Painfully Alone; and hot-shot NYC skronk-jocks Zs.

The deadline is rapidly approaching for submissions for the RFT's 2007 DJ spin-off. This is our annual search to find one DJ in town who will be flown to Miami to represent for St. Louis at the Ultra Music Festival, which takes place this year on March 23 and 24.

To enter the contest, please send me a mix of music — any length, although one CD will more than suffice — that shows off your beat-matching skills, individual style and personal flair. The deadline for submission is 6 p.m. Monday, February 12. I repeat: 6 p.m. Monday, February 12. No exceptions.

Finalists will be notified by Monday, February 19, and there will be a DJ spin-off to determine the winner on Thursday, March 1, at the Atomic Cowboy. I'll be reminding (read: hounding) folks about sending in mixes on our blog (, so feel free to send the link to appropriate parties. E-mail me with any questions — as always, I'm found at [email protected].

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