Opening its doors in March 2009, the IWAN (Independent Working Artists Network) Concept Production Facility proved to be a pioneering concept in what once was a blighted area of Fort Lauderdale. Come to be known as "The Bubble" (which was actually the title of the first event held at the venue; it just stuck), this art gallery, performance venue, and general hangout facility became a much-needed hub for Broward County's underground and underserved artistic set. Predating the popularity of FAT Village's monthly art walks, vinyl record haven Radio-Active Records' move to Federal Highway, and the opening of hipster craft-beer mecca Laser Wolf, the Bubble was a catalyst for the revitalization of the area just north of downtown Fort Lauderdale known as Flagler Village.
We speak in past tense here because the Bubble, in its previous iteration anyway, is no more. The Bubble cofounder Garo Gallo has officially split from the IWAN group and has taken it upon himself to give the art space a bit of a face-lift and a shift in attitude.
Now known as Jump the Shark, the venue has been seriously revamped. Boasting an official beer and wine license now, with a bona fide bar and everything, added patio lighting, and fresh new murals on the walls, Jump the Shark gleams with the prospect of being the vital haunt for Fort Lauderdale's creative set that somehow eluded the Bubble.
In an interview with New Times earlier in the week, the outspoken Dooms De Pop frontman and local arts purveyor came clean on why parted ways with the IWAN group and what he has in store with Jump the Shark. Read our interview after the jump.
New Times: To be clear, can you explain the relationship between IWAN and the Bubble?
Gallo: Technically they were one and the same. IWAN was the company we were doing business as, and "The Bubble" was where we were doing it.
So what led you to leave IWAN?
Irreconcilable differences, really. Officially, like documented on paper, I wasn't a part of, or owner of either [the Bubble or IWAN], though I was 50 percent responsible for everything IWAN/Bubble-related. This was primarily what caused my split from IWAN and led to the starting of Jump the Shark. I wanted to invest in the Bubble, but it never came to be.
What were some take-home lessons you learned during the Bubble's run?
Communication is so important. Whether it be with partners, clients, artists, friends, et. cetera, I cannot stress how vital it is to be as clear as possible. Don't assume people know where you're coming from. You can't please everyone. Artists will be artists; that's why we love them. Trust your gut. These all seem so obvious when spoken but were really driven home. Oh! And don't ever run out of beer.
So will Jump the Shark still be as much a supporter of the local art scene as much as the Bubble was?
Without a doubt and even moreso. It's the only "scene" that's a part of who I am and the only reason I've chosen this profession.
There's a brand new bar too right. How long were you seeking approval for a beer and wine license? We hear they are not easy to come by.
It seemed like forever, but it took about eight or nine months, give or take. Almost every step was a bit of a hurdle, honestly. At times, it felt like being blindfolded in a maze trying to make a straight line, I'll admit it. All in all, it was a positive learning experience, however. The employees of the City of Fort Lauderdale were really sweet and helpful.
Tell us about the new bar.
The bar is on the outside, in the same place as before -- just all-new everything. All I'll say is the words "sparkly '70s bowling ball" were used during its conception.
Are you going to have a decent craft-beer selection?
Indeed; cider and wine too. We're in the process of collecting suggestions from my more, shall we say, "opinionated" friends. It's definitely going to feature an ever-changing variety.
Should Laser Wolf be scared?
Absolutely not. I grew up with Chris and Jordan. I love, respect, and support what they have done. Our town got a little cooler when they opened. They are a bar with "art"; we are art with a "bar." Very different.
So gone is the keg-party vibe that the Bubble effused?
I wouldn't say it's going away entirely. I promise there will still be red cups and kill-the-keg nights. But yeah, touching back on the "can't please everyone" lesson, the drinkers were thrilled to pay so little and drink so much -- but then got mad when it ran out (as always at keg parties). And the nondrinkers got fed up with paying the same price for small events that they would for large ones. Headache.
How do you plan to compete with the likes of Himmarshee bars?
The same way places like Art Serve, Cinema Paradiso, and the Center for the Performing Arts do; we won't. We are a completely different animal.
Besides the decor and bar, how else does Jump the Shark differ from the Bubble?
The Bubble was about artists' being free to express themselves and to grow their audiences. Jump the Shark is about artists' experiencing even more freedom, with bigger and better attendances. We will have an "If it can be done, let's do it" attitude and a "Why can't we?" ethos, as opposed to a "why we can't" state of mind.
You mentioned new murals; what artists are involved?
Francesco LoCastro, Don Shearer, Douglas "HOXXOH" Hoekzema, Ahol Sniffs Glue, 2Alas, Matthew Valera, and more coming.
How have you Jumped the Shark in all this? What's your Fonzie-jumping-the-shark moment in all this?
You would be surprised just how many people have no idea what 'Jump the Shark' is supposed to mean. I'm proposing reimaginings of the meaning of the phrase, actually. What I thought of when I first heard it was positive. I mean, come on, Fonzie flying through the air, over sharks, on water-skis, what part of that isn't awesome? They say you're only as good as your last work, so jump that shark. Who's cooler than the Fonz? Or (if you want) independent artists of all types who bypass corporate "sharks" and showcase themselves professionally.
Will your band, Dooms de Pop, be the official house band?
Dooms de Pop will be "in the house" a lot but, no, not the house band. We'll play the shows that make sense for us or when we're requested by friends and whatnot. Things are better than ever, actually, with the band. We have an EP completed that will be available shortly, a clutch of new tunes, a bunch of ideas being worked on, a website on the way, and we're looking for an agent. Good stuff.
Give us a preview of some shows and gigs that you have planned coming up in the future months.
We have SoKo coming up this Wednesday the 15th, Flagler Village Artwalk Saturday the 25th. Also there is going to be an open-mic night called "Out There," another even called "No Brow 3," and monthly festivals... for starters. The rest is a surprise.
Jump the Shark is located at 810 NE Fourth Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. Visit here , or call 954-667-4126.
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