A lot more than ‘Nothing’: Recent alums establish local Sarasota art center

Photo credit: Caitlyn Ralph
Thesis student Kamron Scruggs performs with his project River Mulroney at Nothing’s songwriter showcase last Thursday.

BY GIULIA HEYWARD AND CAITLYN RALPH

If New College were to grow legs and walk several miles away onto University and make its way to a warehouse on Goodrich Avenue, it would be called Nothing Arts Center.

This is the older, liberated and safer New College: a place where musicians and the audience crack jokes between each other in between songs. Where attendees stop to pose in some of the eclectic artwork around the warehouse, and the atmosphere feels as if everyone is sharing an inside joke with each other.

Nothing Arts Center aims to be an inclusive, safe community gathering space that simultaneously entertains through art performances and educates through information exchange. Already making a name for itself with regular concerts that bring acts from around the state and even country, the center also hosts a zine library. Contained within the “Radical Resource Center,” Nothing’s zine library provides content on topics ranging from feminism to LGBTQ to politics to mental health. The breadth of information reflects Nothing’s initiative to empower local youth.

Housed in a warehouse on Goodrich Avenue, Nothing’s welcoming atmosphere is contagious. A living room set complete with a cozy lamp is situated next to the entrance. Upon entering, guests are greeted by sensory explosions of color, eye-catchingly unique decorations, a large projector screen, the zine library, and fluffy cloud figures hanging from the ceiling.

“I hated shows until I came to New College,” alum Dyl Robitaille (‘10) said. Robitaille, is affectionately referred to as the “brainchild” of Nothing Arts Center. “New College has really been awesome because I feel safe and comfortable being up front watching people perform and being able to see their equipment and what pedals they were using.”

The concept of a “safe(r) space” is something Nothing takes very seriously. Adorned with a New College inspired “don’t be that asshole” motto, Nothing’s no-tolerance policy wishes to “fight discrimination, stigmatization and oppression on a community scale” by banning “racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ableist or ageist speech/action.” Many events are all-ages and substance-free.

“Running a very small venue, you don’t have that leeway to really allow people to drink,” thesis student Hedda Cooper said. Cooper is a co-founder of the center. “That’s a really important part of what we do.”

“It also factors into safer spaces,” Robitaille said. “There aren’t very many places where you can go to where social drinking isn’t a part of the social setting that you are in. […] When you are trying to go and see new people, or go out to see the band, or do these things, there are not many spaces where you can do that without the social setting being tied into alcohol consumption.”   

Advertising a DIT – “do it together” – ethos, Nothing is run by volunteers, mostly New College students and alums. Alongside live music, Nothing presents movies and displays local art. Their Void Membership includes full access to the space for art creation at $50 a month. Nothing also accepts donations that help keep the center running.

Last Thursday, Oct. 1, Nothing Arts Center held a songwriting showcase featuring acts such as thesis student Bradley “Brad” Baker’s “Obvious Objects” and thesis student Kamron Scruggs and recent alum Nathan Benjamin’s project “River Mulraney.” Other musicians included Dis Missive from Sarasota, Brogan from Tampa, and Jon E. Erkkilä from New Jersey.

Acknowledging their ideal location, next to New College, Ringling College and downtown, Nothing wants to become a community center that showcases performance art and circulates ideas. The center has volunteer applications on their website, where individuals can sign up to volunteer and become a part of the team.

“I am really passionate about creativity and community,” Cooper said. “I was looking for somewhere that really had inclusivity and active inclusivity in mind in its construction.”

 

Volunteer applications, future events, and more can be found on their Facebook page, tumblr and Instagram account.

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