LAFAYETTE, Indiana — It never had its own name, its vision wasn't always clear and no one quite figured out its business model. But everyone involved agreed that it was cool.
On July 2, the Foam City experiment came to an end. Owner Paul Baldwin sold the alternative studio space/music venue to TR McCully, a local stained glass and furniture vendor, citing lack of support from the community as the main reason.
"The dream is over. No one cares," he told the Journal & Courier (http://on.jconline.com/U0dkFj ). "I'm going to cry just talking about it."
Baldwin said he had personally financed Foam City for more than two years. It never got the public support it needed, including studio rent from resident artists. Concluding that Lafayette lacked a requisite group of core supporters, Baldwin decided to pull the plug.
"It wasn't meant to be a museum. I didn't want people to draw watercolors," he said. "I was looking for people who were young and poor and looking for a place to do art."
Baldwin will now focus on cultivating the music lineup at Spot Tavern, among other things. He doesn't think a Foam City-type place can thrive in Lafayette, but he remains interested in new and interesting spaces in town.
What Foam City was can be hard to describe. In 2011, Baldwin, who also owns the Black Sparrow and co-owns Spot Tavern, bought an empty warehouse on 407 N. Third St. He wanted a multipurpose space that could serve as artists' studios, as well as a place for them to show and sell works.
Artists Zach Medler, Esteban Garcia and Aaron Zernack made Foam City their studio since its inception. Andres Arizaga Cordero, Aaron Molden and other artists used the space as well.
"It was an underground, dirty place where I could do the things I wanted to do," Medler said. "There aren't a lot of studios downtown that let you have aerosol spray paint and caustic materials. It was the perfect place for me."
Foam City soon became a go-to venue for Lafayette's underground music scene, hosting shows for punk, metal and hardcore rock bands. Psych-punk outfit TV Ghost, St. Louis punk band Alley Ghost and anarchic metal group Who Killed Spikey Jacket, who performed at Foam City's last live music event on July 2, were some notable acts the venue hosted.
On show nights, Foam City embodied a rebellious nature. Singers jumped and cursed while audiences head-banged and mosh-pitted. There was graffiti, beer and guitar amps in the backroom. When a set ended, the crowd would venture out to Third Street to smoke while the next band set up.
But Baldwin said he never meant for the space to be a punk venue.
"It was supposed to be a small business startup, a grass-roots community effort to encourage creativity," he said. "It wasn't about going against the cops. You'd think there's a way the two can coincide. But they really can't. Not in this community."
Zernack, a screen-printer, said Foam City inspired him to have a studio of his own. But he said he recognizes that, sometimes, certain ideas just don't pan out in Lafayette.
"That's kind of the story of this town," Zernack said.
Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com