Guitarist Gord Grdina performs at the White Room. This weekend the venue announced it was shutting down due to COVID-19. (Photo courtesy the White Room)

‘Experimental’ music and art venue in Nanaimo closes due to COVID-19

The White Room announced it was shutting down in a Facebook post

A Nanaimo music and art venue is a casualty of COVID-19.

This weekend the White Room announced on its Facebook page that after three years, the space was closing its doors at 4 Church St. due to the cost of being unable to host events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After careful thought and analysis of the current situation, we feel there is no other choice then to close the White Room,” the statement said. “Despite the recent outpouring of support for the space, it is no longer financially viable. We always ran the space on the tightest of margins and the coronavirus shutdown has now pushed us beyond.”

Shortly after gatherings were banned, and social distance orders put in place, the venue launched a crowdfunding campaign to help it weather the pandemic. As of April 30 the campaign exceeded its $1,500 goal by $370, but White Room co-manager Dave Read said keeping the venue open, while being unable to use it, “wasn’t going to make sense financially.”

“We thank everybody for the support over the years,” Read said. “We had done a GoFundMe, which we offered anybody who wants to get their money back, we would send their money back. But most people have said, ‘You know what? Hold on to it and keep bringing interesting stuff in to Nanaimo.’”

Read said the goal of the White Room was to present music that normally wouldn’t have a venue, particularly “experimental,” “outsider music” that requires a quiet space for “deep listening.” He said the White Room team – Chris Thompson, Jack Tieleman, Valentina Cardinalli and Brendan Holm – accomplished that mission.

“I think we succeeded in bringing some incredible acts into Nanaimo as well as showcasing a lot of the dynamite music and art that comes out of Nanaimo,” he said. “And I would also say our mission is not over.”

In a hopeful note, the Facebook message added that “once the dust settles, we hope to re-emerge with offerings of the strange and wonderful yet again.” Read said he’s not sure what that might look like, but it’s something Nanaimo needs.

“It’s a valuable thing,” he said. “We didn’t make any money. If a capitalist is looking to see how the White Room did, it would probably look like a failure to them because it didn’t generate tons of profit. But to anybody who was there, it was a resounding success because we brought culture form all over the world to our little town.”



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