You’re invited to help save The Bing! Even if just by being there.
Below the invite is the story behind the story.
You’re invited to a holiday fundraiser for The Bing Arts Center!
Saturday, December 6th, 7:30 PM
at Gallery 137
137 Main Street
Indian Orchard, MA
Festive Dessert Buffet
Blue Moon Coffee
and a selection of holiday wines
The Bing, an old single screen theater in Springfield, reminds me of dollar nights as a kid when I’d ride my bike there with friends and how, under the cover of relative darkness, we’d turn around and peek at the older kids making out in the back corner row. I have no idea what movies I saw there but I remember well the ride there, for it was a long bike ride from my house. But dollar night movies were at like 5 and this was always summer and so we rode home in ample light. The background on The Bing:
“The Bing Theater at 716 Sumner Avenue in Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood began it’s public service as Kossaboom’s Service Station in the 1930’s. In 1950 the building was converted into two storefronts, a foyer, lobby, restrooms, and an office. The 900 seat theater was built on the back. The theater was named for mega-star Bing Crosby and opened with a screening of David and Bathsheba!
The theater was essentially a second run film house primarily serving the southern areas and suburbs of Springfield. It closed in 1999 after a screening of Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho. The City took it for non-payment of taxes. After an aborted attempt by another group, the “X” Main Street Corporation (a 501 (c) 3) purchased it from the City in 2004 to renovate and develop as a non-profit, community arts center. The intention is to provide the neighborhood and surrounding areas with a tool to stimulate cultural and economic development. The Bing Arts Center will host visual and performing arts, in addition to cultural educational programs and meetings. Phase One of the project is nearly complete which will allow public use of the building once again!”
So I got a call about 6 months or so ago from Brian Hale, who is part of the “X” Main Street Corporation, and I got involved by commission.
Brian asked me to do a piece for permanent display and for the nostalgic enjoyment of the public and I eagerly accepted. I went to The Bing with him one day last summer and we walked around. He asked me to do a theater seat for permanent display in the lobby. But I thought a single seat would be awkward and that 3 seats would look far better. I wanted my piece to be special and forever, and forward and backward along memory lane.
We walked around the dusty old theater which had sat empty for so many years and as I walked around I got nostalgic, and then I remembered the spying and I looked and there in the farthest back row, which sort of diagonally stretched to the nether regions, was my remembered row (which I’d never actually sat in) and at that moment I named this project The Make-Out Row. But putting glass on the metal parts seemed too obvious and too easy perhaps and not likely to be so aesthetically pleasing so I decided to do the seats. Gluing a zillion little bits of hand-stained glass to the seats won’t work though unless you harden them first. I had previously used canvas as my canvas before when I made The Premier Grand Vacuum Cleaner in which I fortified the cloth bag with resin and fiberglass … and bondo. But that project nearly killed me and was a nasty, nasty biz. No one should ever work in fiberglass and resin. But I really wanted this to be a splendiferous piece. And so it began.
I had to find alternate storage for TMR (The Make-Out Row) so I subletted space in the building next door and during the day I wheel TMR out to the alley (for extra ventilation) and suit up with disposable plastic aprons and my expensive double-barreled respirator, safety goggles, layers and layers of disposable gloves, arm protectors, back brace, sometimes my neck brace, and etc. So far I have gone through 10 boxes of disposable gloves alone and several other giant piles of materials, which is a long list, all funded by what little funds the folks at The Bing can scrape up from mainly their own pockets. And the hours; since August alone I have logged well over 150 hours cleaning and scrubbing, dessicating, resining, applying little patches of fiberglass and then stowing TMR away in the rubber factory at night where the fumes from the gas-off won’t hurt anyone. It’s a crazy biz. The actual gluing seems so far away.
While working on it during the days random people come through the alley and most of them remember making out in that row. Once a man said he remembered that row and then his wife kicked him. People remember that row. If I keep working away I can have it ready for a spring opening, and I am tasked with making a few other new pieces for the accompanying 3 months solo show, because the other work will better place TMR in context, in its context.
But there’s the problem – always the problem – of the funding. The city of Springfield has thus far not responded to, and/or rejected, all funding requests and a state grant was revoked, as one might expect, due to the recession. It’s a crazy economy for all. So the whole TMR project is stalled as grant applications get rejected and so on and I have to choose between food and shelter and finishing the project, hence this public service announcement about this fundraiser and we hope people will come, if not to contribute (because who can afford to contribute? But it’d be great if you could), but just to be there to show support for a really sweet arts space project and the transformation of a beloved little theater into an arts space that can be enjoyed by all in Springfield and beyond. Amen.