Tapp’s Art Center on Main Street — working home to some 45 local artists, venue of choice for edgy local bands, staging area for offbeat events, and full-time exhibition space where the traditional rubs elbows with the strange — will move to Five Points at the end of November.
The arts organization will enter a joint partnership with RockBlock Consulting Company to “build a business and production incubator for cultural entrepreneurs,” according to a Nov. 7 release from both organizations.
Under the new name Tapp’s Outpost, the center will move next to The White Mule performance venue on Saluda Avenue. The arts center will celebrate the news with an announcement event and fundraiser tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. at its Main Street location. A Dec. 5 soft launch at The White Mule has been set to raise funds for the incubator project and to display Tapp’s new digs.
The center, located at the corner of Main and Blanding streets in a former department store that has long been a downtown fixture, has sought a new home since its impending departure was announced in September.
That’s when both the center — which has long struggled to meet expenses on the 24,000-square-foot property, built in 1940 — and the owners of the building decided their relationship was no longer sustainable.
But, according to Executive Director Caitlin Bright, it’s an amicable split: no hard feelings, just time to move on.
“Tapp’s got out of a long-term relationship,” she says. “It’s not looking for anything serious, but it did meet someone, and we’ll see where it goes.”
That someone is White Mule owner and RockBlock founder and CEO Trae Judy, whose business has at least one thing in common with Tapp’s: fostering new talent.
“Trae has been cultivating his own incubator program focused on musicians, making it a good fit with the Cultural Entrepreneurship Incubator Program (CEIP) established at Tapp’s Arts Center in 2015,” the release states.
Judy says that when Tapp’s fell on hard times, he talked with his landlord about helping out.
“It was just kind of a natural fit,” he says. “They’re art, we’re music.”
For Bright, the big goal is for Tapp’s to buy its own place, and she hopes moving to Five Points is a step in that direction.
“I do think, idealistically, it makes sense for us to purchase a building and take ourselves out of the gentrification cycle,” she offers. “That way, it empowers artists, it creates agency, and it creates a long-term situation. However, generating capital for that is really bad at this time. We’re really hoping we can create a cohesive plan for that vision.”
As for the present, Judy says he has a natural interest, as a concert promoter, in the bands that appear at Tapp’s.
“There’s some like-minded, mutually beneficial things that can happen there,” he explains, “as far as my background, being in the concert business as well as having a stage and production and stuff like that there on site. We definitely will be able to bolster that side of it in terms of what The White Mule can bring to the table.”
For her part, Bright is looking at Tapp’s new home as a natural development and a welcome challenge.
During a casual tour with Free Times earlier this week, Bright assesses Tapp’s soon-to-be-former home as we pass numerous paintings, graffiti and local sculptor Andy White’s enormous sculpture of a jackrabbit on horseback, welded together from various found objects and pieces of scrap metal.
“These sound panels that are screwed into the walls, that’s because an apartment bathtub broke through,” she offers. “We spend all our money fixing all the nooks and crannies of this old but beautiful space. We can’t afford that. We need to put it into marketing and programming.”
As she sees it, the building really deserves the care of new clients who can afford to take it on.
“We’re doing it a disservice by being here,” she says, “because we can’t afford the upkeep.”
While the future remains a question, she sees the potential.
“It’s kind of an opportunity the universe gave us for a way to reset, so we’re looking at it positively.”
“Really, this is about getting like-minded folks, getting more energy into Five Points,” he says, “getting more energy on Saluda Avenue and, frankly, more adult-oriented stuff down on that corridor.”