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The department of youth
For those of a non-drinking age (read, not us old folk), seeing live music in Fresno can be a hard sell. Sure, there's plenty of makeshift venues and house shows that pop up. But they can be sketch and you've got to know where to look. Real, working all-age venues are few and far between.
So, a place like the Chinatown Youth Center is an exciting idea — a for-the-people by-the-people venue that's equal parts music, art, and community activism, with something happening every weekend.
Famous talks with 22-year old Jeremy Brownstein about the new center, which recently opened on F Street in downtown.
Let's start with the quick rundown. What's the center all about?
We are a center for art, music, and community. This means we want to promote music, art, and help our community grow strong. The five of us who head the center have been searching for such an opportunity for many years, and we're super excited to be able to have that chance, and that it is located in Chinatown.
I'm excited about the idea of the space as part of larger downtown/Chinatown redevelopment. So, I'll ask, why Chinatown? How'd that come about?
Chinatown is a great community in Fresno. The biggest problem is that there is not a widely known consciousness for Chinatown. Because of that, it has been neglected and has suffered. There are a lot of great people in this community, and we're hoping that we can help really communicate to the public and get down here to experience the historic Chinatown community. Most of us here were very familiar with this community and the cards fell in the right place to be able to have the opportunity to do something positive.
What's the scheduling like? Are there regular hours, or is the center only open during show times?
Currently, we have been having two events on average, per week. We currently do not have regular hours, as the five of us who manage the space are full-time students and part-time workers. Eventually, we hope to be open for regular hours, with help from our community in running the programs.
It seems there is a lack of good/safe all-age venues in Fresno. Where does the center fit into all that?
As of right now we are a members-only, donation-asked venue. This is because the law requires us to be. Eventually, we will have our credentials to be open to the public, which is in the process. As it stands, our musical part has security on hand at all events. Safety is a primary concern, and we feel that it will become less important as we see the change in our community we hope to push forward. Fresno's music scene has for some time lacked a solid all-ages venue, which is why so many house shows and “makeshift venues” pop up. This is what CYC hopes to grow into — a positive, creative, musical, and community-oriented space that all can take part in and feel confident in.
Sort of like Gilman St., which you list on your MySpace, under “heroes.” Can you explain that for readers who might not be familiar?
Gilman St. is an all ages community venue in Berkeley, which has been running as a non-profit, member and community based, and promoting music and art for the past 25 years. The space they have up there is very inspiring to the idea of what some like-minded heads can get done together.
So, what's the organizational structure at the center now? You're all working and in school. So, this is a total volunteer thing?
The five of us have been dying for an opportunity like the one we have. We are not doing this for profit. If anything, we have our savings invested and a lot of our time. Our passion together is in music, art and community. Some of us more so than others in a given field, but it's the passion to be a driving force that keeps us so engaged.
Our only income comes from the donations of our members and our own investments. Those both will, and have, been giving rise to improvements on our space, investing into the community, donating to other organizations, such as those overseas, and promoting programs here.
We're working to find the legal status that will best suit us. Currently we're looking into unincorporated status. Our ultimate goal is to create revenue in which 80% of profit is sent back to the community semi-annually to chosen organizations, while the rest continues to ensure we can be open as a space. We all are attending college and also work; Chinatown Youth Center is our passion, not meant to become our career.
When it says youth center, what are we talking about? Is this appropriate for 12-year olds? Are we looking at high-schoolers? College kids? All the above?
All of the above is the short answer. We're hoping that in time we can have people organizing youth programs and events. Currently as we are, we're trying to set up more amateur art displays, a musical instrument exchange for young people to get involved playing music, and other community-oriented events. We're currently interested in setting up new programs for this space via those in the community who have ideas. We're currently working with some businesses and galleries in an effort to attract more people into the area. We will also, beginning this month, from 7 to 8 p.m., on the first Thursday, same day as Art Hop, have our doors open for public opinion on future programs. We invite anyone with a good idea to come join us.
Chinatown Youth Center
901 E. F St.
* Chris Piss, Bombs Blast, Pinky Swear, Switchblade 327 and Vibrating Crosses
Feb. 6, 6 p.m., $5
* The Velisha, Dead Wasted, Vibrating Crosses, Manic Relapse, Halfa Sixer, D.N.C., Red Wine and Lost Thoughts + more
Feb. 7, 6 p.m., $5