When I first met Ronin Marchen Eidolon he was posing as the poster boy for Habitat for Humanity’s ReSTORE warehouse on Amherst Street. He was working there in order to trade his construction skills for non-profit management training. That was four and a half years ago. Since that time he’s been working on a plan to build a roughshod artist colony somewhere within the city limits. As a matter of fact, he’s been building towards that dream for the last twelve years. And it looks like his dream is finally coming true.
A few weeks ago Ronin pulled his van up to a building on Adam Street near Broadway on the city’s East Side. As he stared at the structure, a window popped open and a man asked him if he wanted it. Ronin shook his head up and down thus setting his destiny’s wheels in motion. “We worked out an arrangement,” Ronin explained to me. “That I would rent the vacant building until I could afford to purchase it or find another with similar qualities. There’s no turning back now. So I’m at the point where I’m looking for other people who share my vision to build a ‘contemporary’ art center.” By contemporary, I think Ronin means progressive – at least that’s my take on the effort. He’s talking about a shared art complex that functions almost like a cooperative. You want in? Then you help pay for the electricity, the heat, the materials, the tools, and everything else that it’s going to take to make it work. Ronin already has a lot of equipment to make it work, including the know-how to fix up the killer interior (and ultimately the exterior).
While cruising around the third floor on his skateboard, Ronin pointed out many of the features that will ultimately attract the artist-types. Original wood floors, plenty of windows, high ceilings with painted white I-beams… everything that you would require if you were looking for a raw gallery or studio. “It’s a day-use space,” he stated as he circled around me on his deck. “The first floor will be for metals and sculptures, the second floor will be a wood shop with fibers… 2 and 3D, and the third floor will be for painting, drawing, writers and music. There’s 21,000 sq.’ of space – it’s a place to get away… a place to collaborate with others who want to produce and show art. Artists will get in on their merit and their ability to contribute to the vision. That could be by helping to fix the place up or bringing in needed resources to share. We’re going to have a kiln outside and a thriving art environment inside – I’m also looking for board members who can help me to manage and grow.
As I looked outside at the surrounding environs, I couldn’t help but think about the proximity of the building to other points in the city. The location pretty much puts the building smack in the middle of three identifiable landmarks – The Larkin Building, The Electric Tower and The Central Terminal. I could see each, depending on which window I was looking out of. Waymarking helps to put it into perspective – it certainly isn’t Allentown, but it is inspirational. And where else can you rent 21,000 sq.’ of finished raw space for 500 bucks a month? Ronin’s ultimate goal is to establish a non-profit residency program where artists will be able to live and work. At this point he’s sleeping two hours a night and living a dream that he’s had since he was a young boy. “The only way to win the impossible game is to have already won it”… that’s his mantra. He feels as if his cards were dealt a long time ago and the game has been playing out unbeknown to him up until now. As he looks back at the road that led him to Adam Street, he can finally make sense out of many meaningful occurrences that once appeared insignificant. “Everything that I’ve experienced has led me to this end,” he told me. “I’ve lost some things and I’ve held onto others. The things that I’ve held onto are helping me make this work. I’ve made sacrifices to get here… the dream is no longer outside of my reach.”