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Antioch’s final ballad

Music: Newhall church, which allowed all musicians to play free of charge, will close by end of Jul

Posted: July 3, 2010 1:02 p.m.
Updated: July 3, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Members of the band The Victor Ship play during a coffeehouse event at Antioch Community Church on Feb. 19. Antioch has hosted Friday night coffeehouse and music events for the last two years. But now the Newhall church faces an economic crisis and must close its doors by July 31, leaving artists and local musicians mourning the loss of a free p...

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Come July 31, Antioch Community Church will no longer have a home, and musicians will lose a popular venue for exposure.

“We’re going to lose not only a place for church but also for the coffeehouse,” said Pastor Jim Girdlestone.

The Newhall church, which currently occupies a humble space at the corner of Chestnut Street and 9th Street, is in the midst of an economic crisis.

“It looks like we’re moving out by the end of July; we have no place to go,” Girdlestone said.

Church members who support facility costs and Friday night music outreaches have been hit hard by the economy, Girdlestone said Friday.  Because the church is about 50 members, it relies on a tight base of financial support.

Three major contributors to the church lost their top-level jobs in the past two months. Another local business can no longer sponsor the ministry due to an economic pinch this summer, Girdlestone said.

“In a down economy, the first thing to suffer is the arts, the second are charities, churches — because we do both, we've got a double whammy,” Girdlestone said.

Antioch is perhaps most known in the community for its support to local musicians and artists. On Sunday mornings, it acts as a house of worship, but on Friday nights, Antioch opens its doors as a performance venue to amateur and professional musicians.

For the past three years, the 2,500-square-foot room typically bustled on Friday nights with an eclectic group of local residents looking for a safe, artsy and atmospheric hangout.

“This last few months, it’s been picking up in terms of popularity,” Girdlestone said. “It doesn’t translate into dollars, but it does translate into people. Having this happen potentially breaks all that up.”

The director of a local arts network said the venue closure will impact Proxart, a community dedicated to surfacing Santa Clarita’s underground artists.

Proxart has worked with Antioch for more than a month now, voluntarily helping the church book talent. It has hosted five music shows and one open-mic night at Antioch’s coffeehouse.

“It’s really affecting us because they’re really the only local consistent open venue to do anything like that,” said Director Nathan Ryan, 22, of Saugus. “Anything else out here costs a ton of money, and you need all of your own equipment, and they have a ton of stipulations.”

But not Antioch.

The church has allowed bands and solo artists, Christian or not, to rock out free of charge.

“We have been dedicated to advancing the arts in the community in a primary way without any other agenda,” Girdlestone said.

When Proxart found out about Antioch’s financial crises, it began charging attendees $5 at the door, donating half of that to the church. While Girdlestone is grateful for the donation, it won’t be enough to keep them at the location.

Antioch has no choice but to be out of the space by the end of July.

“The retail space has reached a cost point that they can’t embrace us as a charity,” Girdlestone said.

Ryan said the venue’s closure is an example of Proxart’s mantra: It is difficult for an art scene to thrive in the suburbs.

Proxart has experienced evidence of this before: Four other venues it previously worked with, mostly coffee shops, closed down.  

“If we can do anything at this point as far as helping Antioch, we would like people to realize what they’re losing,” Ryan said. “That’s a really good local spot for local art to flourish.”

The church will continue to host services — excluding July 4 — through July including its final service in the current location at 11 a.m. on July 25. In the meantime, it will discuss future plans amongst church leadership and members, Girdlestone said.

“We’re trying to be as open as possible to create a solution,” he said.

The preferred plan is to find a small space that houses the church and coffeehouse for affordable rent, Girdlestone said.

Plan B would split up the coffeehouse and the church, finding separate spaces for each. Girdlestone is in contact with some other local churches that are interested in teaming up for the music outreaches, he said. Antioch has yet to find any prospects for the church itself.

Plan C would be to quit the program altogether, Girdlestone said, but church leadership is doing all it can to stay positive and find a solution.

“We’ll be waiting on God and waiting on people to see what might generate in the next week or so,” he said.



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