City-Scape Spirituality

Friday night I went see my friend Renee play a show at a local club. I hadn’t been to see one of a her shows in a while, and I love live music, so it was a great way to unwind and begin a weekend. I don’t know what your weekly routine brings you, but my day job is the antithesis of anything inspiring creativity. So, I rush for anything I can to start my synapses firing during my off-time. I got there early and was caught up in the pre-production buzz of sound checks and lighting checks and fog machine tests and cover-charge coordination. I’ve been part of that buzz a lot in my life, and never get tired of it, even in the instances when I’m not directly involved. There’s a rush that happens in the hour before the lights go up on a performance that I’ve never had duplicated anywhere else.

Just after the doors opened and the crowd was beginning to drift in and order their drinks, while only warming lights and fog were on the stage, I sat back in my chair and let my attention wander to the architecture of the place. Another friend owns the club, and he set the place up in a sort of unique space: an old warehouse complex that has been renovated. His club/coffee shop is immediately adjacent to a skating shop, and shares space with a church and a dance school. The ceiling still tells the tale of the industrial origins of the building in its rigging and ductwork and air conditioning units. There’s character in that. On Friday night, the coffee shop lights were dim and the stage lights were up and reflecting off of the fog, giving a unique flavor…a vibe, if you will, or an ambience…to the place.

I love places like this, especially under lighting like that, because it’s about the character and creativity that can be brought out of the old. Call it re-purposing, call it using what’s there, I just think there’s as much (or more) creativity involved in making an old space work for a modern use than in designing and constructing a sleek, modern, new structure. Don’t get me wrong, I love new architectures. I like sleek, modern designs, and I don’t oppose the architect’s art in bringing new life to an urban landscape. But there’s something about the personality of the existing urban landscape that will speak to you if you let it, almost as though its telling you stories of what its walls have seen and about the people who have walked through it.

I remember, when I was young, I took a piece of black poster board and some neon paints and began duplicating a magazine layout of a city skyline at night. I loved skylines: the multi-colored lights forming pulsing, living patterns on a dark canvas. I didn’t finish that painting as a child, but ever since I’ve been fascinated by skylines, and will have numerous photos of the skylines of every new city I visit. I think about how, within those skylines, are little places, like where I was Friday night, that comprise the entire living city as a whole: the new and the old living together, sleek and modern architecture side by side with old, industrial spaces that still hold life within them.

Artists still cling to these places…these old, industrial, spiritual places, not constantly desiring the new, not in need of more stuff. They feel the essence that isn’t conveyed by material things. They see…and feel…beyond the seen. They create. That pulse of creation is what I feel when I’m in places like those. It’s what I always feel in the theatre, whether on- or back-stage. It’s a sensation that inspires me simply by virtue of the space I’m in. It’s a buzz I can’t ever grow tired of.

Photo Attribution: Extra Ketchup