The opening Friday night for the new storefront gallery and music venue The Project Lodge was hardly a glitzy affair. Most of the 20 or so friends, neighbors and art students who'd gathered at the small East Johnson Street space kept their parkas and woolen winter coats on.
While a few patrons sipped small plastic glasses of red wine, most stuck with the soda, salty snacks and cookies co-owners Chris Buckingham and Kendra Larson had provided for their primarily college-age guests. You could have brought the whole family without fear of having the kiddies corrupted by the decadent art crowd.
For their first exhibit, the two Portland, Oregon, transplants decided to connect with their new neighborhood by collecting art works and artifacts from surrounding businesses.
As a result, the works on the walls and hanging from the ceiling form a comfortable hodgepodge, including a colorful portrait of Cork 'n Bottle Liquor Store owner Jim Wright painted by his seven-year-old nephew, a glistening chandelier contributed by the interior designer next door, and a framed cover of James M. Cain's novel Mildred Pierce on loan from Mildred's Sandwich Shop. In deference to Mildred's, Buckingham projected the film version of the novel on one of the gallery's freshly white-washed walls during the opening.
The most formal piece of work on display is Larson's charcoal-toned painting of a park in Salem, Oregon. The grisliest is a small photograph of a full pig carcass posed sitting at a table contributed by the U-Frame-It store, whose own space was once occupied by a butcher. Jim Wright also loaned Buckingham and Larson the faded tin sign from the grocery store that his uncle George Schwarz once operated at Project Lodge's address, and they've hung it in one of the gallery's big storefront windows.
The Project Lodge will also serve double duty as an all-ages music venue, hosting indie and pop acts both during the week and on weekends. On Friday, the storefront space -- largely unchanged aside from new drywall and paint -- accommodated the wan tenor voice and amplified acoustic guitar by Chris Buckingham perfectly well.
However, the keyboard-anchored local outfit Attack Ponies had a harder time with the acoustics, in part because the tile floor covering the raised portion of the room that serves as an impromptu stage adds extra sizzle to cymbal work. Clearly, any full-fledged rock acts that play there will have to show all the restraint they can muster.
There are nearly a dozen art and live music shows scheduled so far for The Project Lodge over the next couple of months. Friday, Feb. 8 brings an gallery show featuring work by recent UW-Madison MFA graduates Timothy Speaker and Melanie Kehoss, with music by When the Wolf (Occurs), while the following night features a performance by Thunder Snow. Farther out, there are a pair of performances by Say Hi [To Your Mom] and Phosphorescent (presented by Madison music blogger Kyle Pfister), along with a gallery show by Mess Hall Press and tunes by The Buffali and a host of other Madison bands.