Shut down by the city, underground arts space gets help. Is it ready to reopen?

Red Museum works to keep impacting Sacramento's art scene

​Red Museum, an underground arts and performance space north of downtown Sacramento, was closed by the city of Sacramento in July 2017 for a variety of code violations. Electricians with the local electrical union volunteered their services to bri
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​Red Museum, an underground arts and performance space north of downtown Sacramento, was closed by the city of Sacramento in July 2017 for a variety of code violations. Electricians with the local electrical union volunteered their services to bri

The Red Museum flourished in Sacramento’s underground arts scene for nearly two years.

That was before it caught the attention of city inspectors.

The quirky performance- and studio space in an old warehouse north of downtown was shut down late in July after the city discovered building work done without the proper permits and unapproved electrical equipment being used. It was the second arts space in a month shut down by the city for code violations.

But now, after a City Council member intervened and the local electrical workers’ union volunteered its services, it appears the Red’s closure will be short-lived.

Electricians were at the Red the last several days addressing a list of fixes required by the city. The workers – members of IBEW Local 340 – did the work free of charge, donating an estimated $10,000 worth of labor and materials.

Councilman Steve Hansen arranged a meeting recently between Red organizers and city code-enforcement officials to develop a “quick action plan” to get the space running again. Jennifer Jackson, a co-founder, said the organization wants to obtain permits to host one or two events a month and should reopen the museum “in the next week or two.”

“We want the space to be safe, and I think we’re going to get there fairly quickly,” Hansen said. “It can be kind of scary dealing with the city, and I think that’s why some people fly below the radar. We should be doing everything we can to show we want these folks in our community.”

The Red’s closure came just a few days after another below-the-radar arts space was shut down because of code violations.

Panama Pottery in Hollywood Park, a work space for about 30 artists, closed its doors in July after code-enforcement officials determined the century-old building had inadequate exits and unsafe electrical equipment. Changes made to the building more than a decade ago had been done without city permits.

Tucked away in a former fruit-packing warehouse near 15th and C streets, the Red has tried to keep a low profile. Jackson said organizers have avoided promoting events to prevent large crowds.

City officials have begun exploring ways to support grassroots arts spaces like the Red and Panama Pottery, especially after the deadly Ghost Ship fire in Oakland last year placed increased scrutiny on unsanctioned venues. A grant program launched by Mayor Darrell Steinberg is offering $500,000 for art installations and performances.

With city leaders throwing their support behind the arts, Jackson said the time is right for the Red Museum to “step out of the shadows for a moment and show the city ... what we’re offering to our community.” Red Ex: Vol. 1, a one-day event featuring live bands, comedy and food, is scheduled for Aug. 26 and reflects the Red Museum’s goal to expand into larger events.

Scheduled acts include Los Angeles-based punk rock duo No Age and Sacramento’s Drug Apts, a post-punk band whose founding members include Mike Thiemann, chef at Mother and Empress Tavern. Also appearing are the psychedelic indie group Ganglians and Hobo Johnson, the young local rapper with Oak Park ties. Food and drink will come from local purveyors.

“We wanted an event that felt very unified in vision,” Jackson said in an email, “but also represented the diversity of the current up-and-coming talent in our city.”

While major shows appear at Golden 1 Center and the Community Center Theater, Jackson said there are few spaces in town putting on “avant-garde, alternative” events. “So that’s part of why we’re trying to push our mission in that direction,” she said, “just to give people places to perform and share their art.”

The Red Museum recently submitted an application to the city’s Creative Economy Pilot Project – the grant program launched by the mayor’s office – requesting funds to support a series of events over the next year and a partnership with the city to examine its policies on art performance spaces. Occupancy for the building is under 50 people, Jackson said, but she hopes to have that number increased soon after the Red Museum reopens.

Jackson said she and a small group of artist friends started the Red Museum in late 2015 as a work space for bands and artists, along with the occasional event. She said inspiration for the space came partly from a trip to Berlin, where she observed a “visceral” arts scene that permeated all areas of the city.

“The reuse of old buildings, and kind of the feeling that there’s something unexpected happening in their neighborhood, it’s exciting,” Jackson said of the trip to Berlin. “It makes it fun to experience your city that way. We started thinking, ‘What kind of space would have that feeling in Sacramento?’ ”

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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