For patrons, performers, artists and designers, the appeal of Project Lodge is the utterly undefined nature of the place. The current lease for the multipurpose arts and music space at 817 E. Johnson St. isn't up until November 2012, but for better or worse, things are certain to get more defined before then.
A noise complaint followed by a noise citation during the summer months has current leaseholder and Lodge cofounder Bessie Cherry producing "80% fewer events" than in the space's heyday, less than a year ago.
"We've operated on goodwill with the neighborhood," says Cherry. So, for the time being, she's putting the kickstand down on all but a very few early-evening events. Fewer shows mean less revenue. Cherry finds herself paying a portion of each month's rent out of her own pocket.
"In the interest of keeping Project Lodge open and viable long-term, we decided to take a low-profile approach," Cherry says. Meanwhile she's investigating, with an attorney working pro bono, what kinds of city variances and permits may be needed. She secured the legal help with an assist from the Wisconsin Arts Board.
Whatever happens, Cherry doesn't want the venue's core value of volunteerism to get distorted. It's clear she's worried that conforming in ways the city needs, and that she respects, could harden the otherwise soft edges of the under-the-radar space.
The executive-assistant-by-day says, "Maybe we got a little too ambitious with music bookings, but we hope we can always be an alternative public art and performance space."