New Bohemian arts venue to close | Blogh

New Bohemian arts venue to close

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The New Bohemian, an arts venue in an old North Side church, is closing.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BILL GILLILAND
  • Photo courtesy of Bill Gilliland
The venue's operator, Bill Gilliland, announced the closing today on Facebook. He is putting the business up for sale, including the furnishings and sound equipment. But he tells CP that he is also taking phone calls from people interested in possibly taking over the venue, located in Deutschtown between East Ohio Street and the Allegheny River.

Gilliland, who goes by Bill Earl, tells CP he is closing the space he opened three years ago largely because the maintenance on the 115-year-old former St. Wenceslas church that he leases from its owner has become overwhelming.

"I'm a little bit tapped out of resources," says Gilliland, 33, who also lives in the building. "It's become too much. ... It's gotta be more than just one guy running the show."

"It's been really positive and really successful in a lot of ways, but it hasn't been a [money-maker]," he adds.

Recent troubles at the New Boho have included plumbing problems and the receipt of a letter from ASCAP, an organization that licenses and distributes royalties for songs. Gilliland says that ASCAP told him he needed to begin paying annual dues of $1,400 because live music is performed at the venue.

Gilliland, who grew up in Harmony, Pa., is a graphic designer, tattoo artist and musician who took the lease on the former church in 2012. He says the building was last used as a church in 1989. Its subsequent uses included life as a day-care center that served employees of the nearby Heinz plant.

In the past year, the New Bohemian has been home to everything from monthly square dances to experimental theater, monthly meetings of a humanist church group, and a rock-music summer camp for kids.

Gilliland told CP this afternoon that other than his Facebook message, he hadn't contacted any of the organizations that use the New Bohemian.

Among those renters are Steel City Squares, Sunday Assembly, Weather Permitting (an outdoor music series that moved indoors last winter), life-drawing group Draw Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Fringe theater festival. Gilliland teaches at Rock School Pittsburgh Summer Camp, which used the New Boho this past winter.

Gilliland says he viewed the New Bohemian as something of a successor to the Shadow Lounge, Justin Strong's long-running East Liberty coffeehouse and performance space. Gilliland said some of the New Boho's furniture and sound gear came from the Shadow Lounge when it closed in 2013.

While he says that the New Boho's closing reflects the difficulty of running a small, independent arts venue in a rapidly changing city, he acknowledged that someone else, preferably a team of folks, might be able to do the job better.

"Maybe I'm not the best person at this point to run this place .... I was being run ragged," he says. "I'm hoping [that] fresh bodies and minds can come into this and propel it."

Interested parties can contact him at billearl@billearl.com.


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