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Interview: The Hexagon (w/ Josh Atkins)

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MP3: Ava Luna – Neptune from Tales of a New York City Pedestrian (2005)

The Hexagon has a bit of history.  For those unaware, in a previous life the much beleaguered space was home to the Lo-Fi Social Club’s disastrous attempt at becoming a legitimate, traditional venue.  Needless to say, this fell flat due to its proprietor taking the equivalent of Sherman’s march through the arts community, leaving a reputation with an aftertaste somewhere between two-week old flat beer and swamp water.

Lucky for everyone four plucky friends (Josh Atkins, Karl Ekdahl, Miguel Sabogal, and Matt Sterling) decided to take over, and oh how things have changed.

With more than a little sacrifice and effort, the growing community has established a viable, intimate venue with a unique atmosphere that is proving to be a gem in the burgeoning Station North Arts District.  But alas, times are tough and business tougher, so they are making a thrust to move the venue into non-profit territory to open themselves to alternative, more philosophically amenable funding sources to help stabilize the space and expand its mission.

This Saturday night, the monthly BOLT! Dance Party is hosting a 1 year anniversary party for the Hexagon, and doubles as a fundraiser.  Proceeds will help pay for the application to gain non-profit status.  Surely not to be missed, the night features New Yorkers Ava Luna, Polygons (Sabogal and Atkins’ electronic project), DJ Lemz and James Nasty.

Josh was kind enough to answer some questions on past, present and future of the 6-sided beast.

bolt flierAural States: Looking back at the past year, what major milestones has the Hexagon accomplished since taking over the space that briefly housed the Lo-Fi Social Club (which seemed beleaguered at best)?

Josh Atkins: We’ve done piles of small stuff, but its hard to pick out the big things since the effects are cumulative. I would say that our vision for the sound system and stage is pretty much complete now that we’ve installed curtains, sound proofing, and a permanent projector. That was the main focus for the past year. We’ve hosted a lot of really outstanding events. The Matmos and R/S show that was in quadraphonic surround sound was especially remarkable. Other than that, surviving a year of paying bills, rent, licensing fees, and repairs without going into debt has been a feat, especially in this economy. Oh, and forming a working collective with so many intelligent and motivated people. That was no small feat, and its by far our best feature.

AS: What sparked the drive to make the Hexagon a collective, community-run venue as opposed to a more traditional one?

JA: Well, (a) the four of us that started the Hexagon, Karl, Miguel, Matt, and me, were already incredibly busy with other pursuits (school, work, film, bands, starting other companies, etc.) and we didn’t have the capacity to run a club without help and (b) this was an experiment to begin with and we loved the collective nature of so many other groups in this city. It seemed like making a collective would allow for the space to exist more permanently, even in our absence if we all left Baltimore at some point.

AS: What is the motivation behind the black-tie fundraiser format of the monthly Bolt party this Saturday?

JA: It is kind of a joke. Whenever there is a fundraiser for a big organization or charity they always have a fancy gala event in a hotel ballroom. This is our version of that. Also, its fun to get dressed up.

AS: What does the application process entail to convert the Hexagon into a non-profit space?

JA: The major hurdle is applying for 501(c)3 status which would give us federal and state tax exemption and allow for tax deductible donations and other nice benefits. The application is a bit arduous and there is a pretty hefty application fee (at least for a small organization like ours).

AS: How will this change things for the Hexagon, logistically or otherwise?

JA: We had to re-write our bylaws because non-profit corporations in Maryland are required to have a Board of Directors, President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer among other things. The current collective will continue to function as is under the guidance of the Board of Directors.

AS: Does it restrict or expand the mission statement?

JA: We are expanding our mission statement and trying to focus on providing more educational events in the coming year. The 16mm film series that Miguel hosts every Wednesday is one example. We also have been talking a lot about various lecture series (especially one on electronics) and hopefully this move will be an impetus to get the ball rolling on those ideas.

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AS: How will the Hexagon community benefit? The arts community at large?

JA: The Hexagon community will not have its brash and ruthless owners to answer to anymore. This space has been run with a non-profit mentality since the beginning by everyone involved. I see this move mostly as a recognition of that and hopefully as a way to ensure the place stays around and continues to mature for many years to come.

AS: If the non-profit application is approved, what will be the next step in developing the Hexagon?

JA: Then we start the really hard work. We’ll be applying for grants and asking for donations to help us fund our ideas for improved art, educational, and events programming.

AS: Future plans for expanding the space and community?

JA: We’re constantly working to improve the space, especially the gallery room and the smaller rooms which we’ve talked about turning into lounge / library areas. I already mentioned the focus on making more of our events educationally valuable. We will definitely be reaching out to try to get more volunteers involved. Its a tight knit group right now, but we manage to get a lot done.

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One Response to “Interview: The Hexagon (w/ Josh Atkins)”

  1. Jeff says:

    Kudos! The Hexagon fellows have definitely done a great job of squashing the Lo Fi effect on The Hexagon

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