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BloomBars: Reflecting Its Vision Through Use of Its Space

[All photos by Gerry Suchy]

The building that houses non-profit and performance space BloomBars acts as a sort of mirror, reflecting the organization's mission as well as its strong ties to the neighborhood's history. The venue is functional, purposeful, welcoming and eclectic, all at the same time.

The physical space, located in Columbia Heights, is over 100 years old and has had many lives. It has been a daycare, a karate studio and up until BloomBars took over, a print shop.

"The building really supports the intentionality of our mission," says John Chambers, leader and founder of BloomBars.

When the space opened in 2008, Chambers envisioned an all-purpose venue for the arts and the community. BloomBars' interior makes good on that idea; the main level features a stage and an otherwise open space for concerts, workshops and performances. In addition, Chambers has kept much of the original architecture from the building. Exposed brick adorns the walls and the original archway above the stage is still standing.

"The process of creating a new architecture for an old space has to be a process of living in that space and understanding what the history of that space has been," Chambers says. "I didn't do a complete gut. We wanted to make sure that we are a continuation of the past and its history."

For that reason, most everything in BloomBars has been repurposed and is used with functionality in mind. For instance, nestled in an high corner is a fraction of a boat that houses the space's elevated sound booth. Chambers notes that the booth came to be because he was looking for a purposeful way to fit a sound booth into the small space. He eventually found the wooden boat, and turned part of it into the space's sound booth.

"Art, much like space, doesn't have to be static," says Chambers.
·BloomBars [Official Site]
Danielle Cralle