Thursday, February 24, 2000
The much-beleaguered Black Box Cabaret at CSUMB finally got the axe, and will be closing down at the end of the semester. CSUMB officials announced Monday they don't have the money to make needed repairs to the historic building, which include seismic retrofitting, rewiring to meet fire codes, and installing a disabled-access ramp from the parking lot. "It will cost more than $350,000 just to bring it up to code, and that's not counting making any improvements," says university spokesperson Holly White.
Student supporters of the popular gathering spot, which holds regular music, dancing, lecture and open-mic events in a casual, pub-like setting, are up in arms. At least five separate student groups held meetings about it Monday, a protest concert was held Tuesday, and a protest rally is planned for this evening at 6pm, during the president's weekly "Peter's Party."
"The students are really upset," says Anna Williams, a BBC student manager. "This is an integral part of the campus community. Closing it down is pretty much a metaphor for what's going on at CSUMB in general."
The building was constructed by the Army in 1941 to be used for World War II mobilization. It was never intended to last more than five years, White says. Later the Army used the space as a dinner theater, and in September 1996, CSUMB officials allowed the BBC to open there "on a temporary basis," White notes; "It was never part of the master plan."
University officials told students they want to relocate the Black Box to another building, but Williams points out that belies their stated reason for closing it down. "It would cost more to bulldoze this place and move everything to a new building," she says. It's "pretty ironic," she continues, that while administrators want to shut the Black Box for financial reasons, they're opening up a spanking new University Center next door. "It's going to have a three- or four-star restaurant, for all the corporate people who come on campus," Williams complains. "The students won't be able to afford to eat there."
Other student activists also question whether the closure is purely a financial matter. Jacob DeGrave, who books events at the Black Box and just resigned as Events Senator for the Student Voice because of disagreements with university administrators, says "they could find the money if they wanted to." Student Aaron Bilyeu, who works at the BBC, says, "What's really upsetting is that the place was designed as a forum for the students to get together and speak their mind about what's going on on campus, and now that the students are starting to do that, they're taking it away."
White insists the university wants students to be involved in finding a new location for the Black Box. "The students are upset now, but they'll be part of the new place," she says.
From Hermitage to High School
The overflow from an exhibition of Russian art currently showing at the Monterey Museum of Art is now on display at the Monterey Courthouse, as part of the county's "Art in Public Places" program. The paintings in both exhibits are the work of "The Hermitage Group," eight painters from St. Petersburg who worked underground during the Soviet years and who now exhibit and travel throughout the world.
The seven surviving members of the group will teach classes at schools in Monterey County from March 28 to April 7, courtesy of the Cultural Council, who brought them in for workshops last spring as well. "They were a big hit," says Kathy Littles, arts education coordinator with the Council. The artists, who all speak English, are available to lead interactive painting demonstrations with students, and to talk about their experiences living as artists in the former Soviet Union. If you are interested in booking them for your school, call Kathy at 622-9060.