Blank Space In St. Louis Celebrates Five Years Of Rising Up And Getting Down
Envisioned as a respite from the social upheaval of St. Louis, Blank Space at 2847 Cherokee is turning five with a growth spurt, celebrating with a weekend party featuring DJs and live music March 24-25, 2017. A hub for community, drinks and dialogue, Blank Space remains a centrifugal force in housing underground movements. During its half-decade of existence, it has morphed from a bar and music venue, gallery, café and event space into a platform for local artists and activists.
Keep reading for our conversation with co-founder and co-owner Kaveh Razani, who discusses the inception of the space, its progression and robust vision for the future.
How did the idea for Blank Space come about?
I saw this space while walking with a friend of mine who was looking for apartments, and the owner offhandedly asked if we wanted to rent the whole building. My friend laughed it off, but I wanted to look at it. I had already been doing a lot of work with community arts, and wanted to open up my own space.
How does Blank Space best serve as an intersection of nightlife, civic engagement and the arts?
There aren’t many places that straddle the line between culturally progressive and also providing a down-to-earth social vibe. Blank Space also provides space for people to do things in the neighborhood at a rate that’s affordable, and donates the space to nonprofits and community organizations. It is not the best financial move for us, but we made the decision from day one that our goal was to be community-directed—not profit-driven.
As a minority business owner in St. Louis, what has your experience been like?
I care about that issue a lot. I especially care about it on Cherokee, because for a while there were mostly businesses with white owners opening up, and now we’ve had a slew of businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color, which is great. People say gentrification doesn’t happen here because it’s not a New York or San Francisco, but I think the way it happens in St. Louis is that a cultural haven opens up and gets quickly overrun by developers trying to capitalize on that positive culture. One of the ways to combat that is to support businesses owned by people of color. It’s easy to get steamrolled when you’re a historically oppressed demographic, and if there isn’t extra attention given to stabilizing and resourcing, then that gentrification will happen to these neighborhoods.
What does the future of Blank Space look like?
It’s a game of inches for us. We’ve spent the last five months fine-tuning a lot of things that are having a tremendously successful effect on the business. If we didn’t believe in what we were doing, we wouldn’t be doing it. One of my big goals is to create a business model that allows Blank Space to be a co-working space by day. Businesses or freelancers could have a membership that would provide a discount for rentals, events, drinks and other necessities. That way, we can provide a way to make sure our bills are getting paid and focus on being culturally forward-thinking without having to weigh how profitable every given event is going to be.
Photography by Kat Reynolds