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Monday, August 27, 2012

Heartbeat: So long, Earth House

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 3:21 PM

When you step into the Earth House Cafe to order a coffee, a gigantic eye stares back at you. A jewel-encrusted eye, sparkly and huge.

We know that eye well — we made it. It's the NUVO 2010 Cultural Vision Award, which we handed over to the Earth House Collective for providing a “major hub for creative, provocative and alternative ideas and programs” to Indianapolis.

Much went on at the Earth House, including a fully vegan cafe menu, a coffee bar piled with freshly roasted organic coffee beans, a frequently changing collection of art posted to walls by local visual artists, a lending library and many comfortable nooks to rest your feet and sip a drink.

Occupying this variety of spaces were open mic-ers, tai chi and yoga enthusiasts and audiences set to enjoy Indy Film Fest short films. They enjoyed Pay What You Can meals and the Really Really Free Market.

Growing outside was a flourishing urban garden, including ripe watermelons, corn, squash, herbs and a planned biergarten complete with Earth House-grown hops.

But perhaps our favorite use of the Earth House was for the regular concerts held inside the sanctuary. The beautiful, open space held not only the weekly services of the Lockerbie Central United Methodist congregation, but a widely varied program of local, regional and national acts who filled the stage with music. In the last year alone, Earth House hosted a collection of local roots musicians at The Wake, songstress Laura K Balke, Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, Black Joe Lewis, The Civil Wars, Rodeo Ruby Love and many First Friday events. Shows were often under $20 and always all-ages.

click to enlarge Laura K. Balke at her album release show - ANDA CROSS
  • Anda Cross
  • Laura K. Balke at her album release show

But it is no more.

“The [Earth House Collective] Board met several times to review where we are, and it just became clear to everybody that we couldn't keep going. We didn't have a model that was sustainable long-term,” says Brenda Freije, current pastor of Lockerbie Central United Methodist and former Earth House Collective Board member.

Freije was previously Volunteer Pastor at the church, but was appointed full-time on July 1.

“The church owns the building, and Earth House is a supporting organization of the Church. The church has control to some extent over the appointment of the majority of the Board,” says Freije.

Although Lockerbie Central UMC plans for now to continue to meet in the space, the Collective will officially cease operations on Friday, Aug. 31.

“Earth House is closing. There's always the possibility we can figure out a model that works in this building, but there is a lot in terms of the support of this building that has to be taken into account,” says Freije.

“This is a beloved place. I was just walking the grounds this morning, looking at the art in the garden. It's a fantastic place and it's just very sad,” says Freije.

The venue was a favorite of local promoters, who took advantage of the lack of age restriction and treasured the beautiful space.

“[Former Executive Director] Jordan Updike and his team put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into making that venue a success. MOKB Presents tried to support him and it in every way that we could - even helping to raise over $15,000 for a PA system,” says Craig “Dodge” Lile.

Another local promoter, Andy Skinner of A-Squared Industries, laments the closure.

click to enlarge The Wake - PHILLIP HILL

“Of course, there are always little things that every venue in the world can improve, but for what it is — a centrally located all-ages venue that perfectly caters to mid-level national indie rock acts — it has been perfect,” says Skinner.

He'll miss the amenities the venue offered.

“There was a tower green room for the bands; there was a coffee shop downstairs for the younger crowd. It was everything you would want for everyage group at a live show and it will be sorely missed,” says Skinner.

Musician Jake Satterfield of Verdant Vera, performed at one of the last scheduled shows on Saturday as part of the band's self-titled album release show.

“We chose the Earth House because of its reputation and beauty. Also, being that it was Indianapolis' largest independent all-ages venue, made it a lot better of a choice, because a lot of our fans and friends are still under 21,” says Satterfield.

Knowing the venue would be closing created an emotional atmosphere for Verdant Vera's show.

“Going in knowing that it was going to be the first and last time we ever get to play Earth House, I really just wanted to soak it all in,” says Satterfield. "The feelings that night were definitely bitter sweet but, to play such an absolutely stunning venue, made everything worth it.”

click to enlarge Tina Hamlin - STACY KAGIWADA

“My favorite musical memories were when we had small gatherings of artists in the Cafe. The whole atmosphere was just fantastic,” says Freije. “For me, a lot of local musicians also played at the church. We did reggae worship music — we always had really great caliber of artists for the worship [service].”

Although the future for the Collective is unclear, there is one more show scheduled for lovers of the Earth House to enjoy. Electronic musician Dan Deacon will perform with Height With Friends, Chester Endersby Gwazda and Alan Resnick on the official closing date for the venue, this Friday.

“None of us expect any problems or changes that day, other than possibly being a bit emotional and wistful,” says Skinner, one of the event's promoters.

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