BOOM Concepts celebrates five-year anniversary with first fundraiser | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

BOOM Concepts celebrates five-year anniversary with first fundraiser

click to enlarge BOOM Concepts celebrates five-year anniversary with first fundraiser
Photo: Sarah Bader (IG: @sarahbader)
DS Kinsel of BOOM Concepts
BOOM Concepts, the Garfield gallery space and arts initiative, needs your help to better serve the Pittsburgh community.

Founded in 2014, BOOM Concepts quickly went from being a workspace for artists DS Kinsel and Julie Mallis, and JENESIS Magazine editor-in-chief, Thomas Agnew, to become a multi-use venue for exhibitions, events, artist residencies, and more.

Now, after five years in operation, the BOOM team will launch its first fundraising campaign for $5,000, all of which will go toward launching more in-house programming, operating studio locations (including Bloomcraft in Oakland and BOOM Studios in the Allentown), and providing free art supplies to studio and community members in need.

“We have different things that we do that we spend a lot of our own money on,” says Agnew, who, in addition to being a co-owner and co-founder of BOOM, serves as the organization’s operations manager. “We always make sure that we’re paying artists. We’re just trying to replenish those funds that we’ve been utilizing for the past five years to continue to help the community.”

In a press release, BOOM Concepts credits its business model to small, independent venues like Shadow Lounge and Ava in East Liberty, and 720 Music Clothing & Cafe in Lawrenceville, both of which served and showcased local artists, musicians, and community organizations before they were forced to close. In their absence, Agnew believes BOOM inadvertently became a new go-to place, starting with neighboring venues like Most Wanted Fine Arts and Assemble coming to them for help when they overbooked events.

“As far as different spaces that were closing, performance spaces that disappeared, we weren’t trying to be the replacement,” says Agnew. “We were just trying to make sure whatever resources that we have, that the artists know that they can come here, that we were open for them. That was just great to be able to do that over the years.”

From there, they created programming for the monthly Unblurred gallery crawl and micro-residencies for emerging artists. They have also hosted a variety of events, including live shows, talks on urgent social issues, and fun happenings like puppet karaoke.

No matter what, Agnew stresses that BOOM has worked to become a welcoming space for people of all ages and backgrounds to perform, exhibit their art, or work on projects.

“We try to keep that safe environment at all times and make sure people are respectful of others,” says Agnew. “As long as you don’t put a hole in the wall or damage somebody’s artwork, you can come here."

In addition, BOOM focuses on professional development for artists, from teaching them how to write a press release to hosting workshops on how to apply for grants. That mission also includes working with business partners in need of creative people with certain skill sets. “Pittsburgh has a strong DIY scene, and so while DIY is cool for a little while, you still need to build a business as an artist,” says Agnew.

The fundraiser launches on Sat., March 23 with a 5-Year Anniversary Kick-Off Mixer at BOOM Concepts. The fundraiser continues through June, with appearances at events like the Wilkins Block Party on April 27 at Schenley Park, as well as a variety show planned for sometime in May.

“We’re kind of stringing together a few events here and there and pushing [the fundraiser] along the way,” says Agnew, adding that people are also welcome to welcome to go to the BOOM Concepts website and donate.