At first glance, a building tucked away on the bustling street of East Washington Avenue, the Art In is a humble establishment with nothing but a homemade sign leaning against the amber brick exterior. But the treasures that lie within the venue and its history have provided a foundation for countless eager artists.
At night, the darkness reveals colorful neon lights — a reflection of the history of radiant events that have occurred at the Art In. The Art In, a venue, exhibit and bar, has been vital to the art and music scene by giving a variety of artists their desired platform.
When the venue first opened five years ago, the 5,000 square foot space was used as an art gallery, with studios for rent upstairs, for artists to exhibit their work.
“Around 2015 we started transitioning into music more, then in 2016-2017 is when we went full-time music,” founder and owner of the Art In, Jack Chandler, said.
Its purpose shifted and expanded into a location for talented musicians to showcase themselves while being exposed to the public.
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Upon arrival at the venue, guests are immediately drawn away from the vastness of the city and into an atmosphere that fosters recreational leisure. The mismatched chairs and sofas give the show space a unique sense of character, even a small-town feel, which is an ambiance difficult to get elsewhere in the city of Madison.
Though guests are encouraged to pick their seats, nobody was seated for long once the music began.
The show began with The Cherry Pit, featuring a diverse group of instruments — Leo Dreis on piano, Jarra Diakite on percussion, Fernando Ponce Romero on trumpet, and Kari Woods on vocals were standouts during the performance. The Cherry Pit kept the listener on their toes with styles ranging from smooth jazz to upbeat contemporary.
The Jimi Hendrix-inspired blues and rock band, Jason Vargas and the Apollos, in their debut live appearance, however, were unmissable. With an acknowledgment of Black History Month from lead guitarist and vocals, Jason Vargas, the band began to amaze the audience during their opening song with none other than a Beatles classic, “Sgt. Peppers.”
“I think my favorite part was after maybe our first or second song, just looking out into the crowd and seeing the place packed, quite literally packed and everybody up [at the] front watching us,” Vargas said. “Knowing that this was our stage and our platform to be artists and play our music was a really beautiful thing.”
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By the end of the first song, audience members had moved from their seats bordering the space to immediately in front of the band. Moments later, every seat was empty as the crowd gathered around the platform, leaving no room to spare. Dancing was in full swing as fans sang and kept rhythm with drummer Preston Carr and the 60s masterpieces performed throughout the entirety of the set.
“Personally, to me, [the show] meant a lot,” Vargas said. “Playing music and having my own band has been a dream of mine for a while, so for us to be able to play our own show, with our own band, at our own venue, it was empowering, a lot of fun [and] very exciting.”
“The beauty of it is how easy [Chandler] makes it for the bands to book,” bassist Blake Stauter, a regular at the Art in, said. “He makes the whole process so easy to set up the gig at [the Art In].”
“They supply so much for you and all you really have to do is promote [the show],” Vargas said. “It was a quick response without much hassle, and it felt good. And I think that’s something great about the Art In.”
The owner’s passion for showcasing new musicians is apparent through his mission statement.
“The [Art In] provided a stepping stone to a lot of people and that’s really what I’m most proud of,” Chandler said. “We set out to be the spot that allows anybody [to play] at low to no cost, so they can get those welcome to the world kind of moments.”
Chandler announced the closing of the Art In mid-January, due to a lack of patrons and competing venues in the surrounding area. The Art In’s last day of operation will be Feb. 29 with a line-up including Tubal Cain, a dark metal group, who plans on releasing a new CD.
“Keep the Madison music scene alive, Chandler said. [The Art In] is just a venue, it is merely a room. The people and the fans and the vibe is what keep it fun and exciting.”