Last week, all-ages venue The Garage launched an online fundraising campaign via GiveMN. After months of renovation, the popular Burnsville music space — which is under new ownership by nonprofit Twin Cities Catalyst Music — is turning to the public for help achieving its vision for the future.
“To see what people experience when they come there, and how it changes their lives and affects their lives ... it's such a vital source or creativity and expression for them,” TCCM Executive Director Jack Kolb-Williams says of the Garage. “It just changed me completely.”
For more than 15 years, The Garage operated as one of the only all-ages venues in Twin Cities, garnering a reputation for hosting touring hardcore and punk bands. It also served as a space for after-school programs. Until this past January, the 550-capacity venue was owned by the City of Burnsville and operated by its Parks and Recreation Department.
The Garage relied heavily on grant funds, and when those ran dry, the city relinquished its ownership. That's when TCCM stepped in, armed with an ambitious vision of what The Garage could become.
Kolb-Williams is leading a directive alongside Education Director Logan Adams to turn The Garage into a hub of creativity, offering opportunities for community engagement and education. After the renovations, the space now includes a cafe and brand-new bathrooms, but the upgrade isn't complete. Part of the funds raised by this campaign will contribute to outfitting a brand-new recording studio currently being built within the 10,000-square-foot facility.
“It's such a unique space, location and partnership that it's going to have with the venue,” Kolb-Williams says of the studio. “It's going to be unlike anything that I've ever encountered in my years of playing and going around the country.”
A Wisconsin native, Kolb-Williams is a certified music teacher with experience in managing bands, booking shows, and touring as a performer himself. He's excited about connecting with local DIY musicians and high school bands to offer usage of a professional-grade studio at an affordable hourly rate. And now that The Garage is operated by a nonprofit, all of its revenue goes directly back into the facilities.
“That way, we're able to charge lesser amounts because basically we just want to make sure that the engineers that are running the sessions are getting paid," Kolb-Williams says. "And we have a little bit left over to contribute to all of our expenses and rent and things like that."
The venue will remains all ages. Board members say they are interested in connecting music lovers who attended Garage events as teens and are now in their 20s or 30s. “What we want to do it start to reach back to that community and connect with them and bring them in,” says Kolb-Williams. He hopes to schedule an open house in early October, along with special events celebrating donations.
The board is also planning a grand re-opening along with the city of Burnsville once the recording studio is finished. Despite being unable to contribute financially, the city has continued to be supportive of the Garage and its mission. After-school programming has been moved to different locations within the school district, and Kolb-Williams hopes that the public's perception of The Garage as a “teen center” will dissolve.
Kolb-Williams and Adams plan to emphasize education. Sharing backgrounds in music education, the two see great potential for the space to offer mentorship programs and other educational programs during the day, when there aren't performances. They're hoping to begin generating music industry-related courses like live sound production, recording engineering and, instrument lessons.
Adams has been focusing on The Garage's blog: Garage Music News, which features writers, photographers, and videographers contributing a publication focused on the venue. Kolb-Williams calls it “an online music source for everything all-ages music here in town.”
Though TCCM is currently focused on getting The Garage back on its feet, the nonprofit has metro-wide plans. The trip from Minneapolis or St. Paul over to Burnsville requires transportation, which many young people may not have access to.
“Our bigger goals for the non-profit is then to open up additional satellite locations all serving a similar mission as The Garage and a similar focus, but in different parts of the metro,” Kolb-Williams says. He envisions each venue catering to its specific local music scene, as The Garage, which saw 23,000 attendees in 2014, has done for young music fans in Burnsville.
The Garage will continue to live on, thanks in part to its dedicated team of volunteers. For now, the focus remains on raising funds for constructing the recording studio and creating a sustainable payment structure for employees. For those who are unable to offer financial support, The Garage is seeking volunteers. Musicians, photographers, music writers, sound engineers, and other industry professionals are encouraged to donate their talents by acting as mentors and teachers.
“This is not a campaign to 'save the Garage,' because we're going to make this work,” Kolb-Williams declares. “We've got to figure this out and we're going to be here.”