Los Angeles Times

Performing arts venue revived

The former Bootleg space, closed by the pandemic, is reborn as 2220 Arts + Archives.

- By Randall Roberts

The space that housed the Bootleg Theater gets new life as 2220 Arts + Archives.

Though no one knew it at the time, the experiment­al guitarists-banjoists Eugene Chadbourne and Wendy Eisenberg would end up giving the final performanc­e on the Bootleg Theater’s stage. It was March 9, 2020. The pandemic was bearing down on America and gutting nightlife.

As the weeks turned to months, the Filipinoto­wn club, which for two decades served as a launching pad for countless artists, eventually announced that it, like other crucial small venues including the Blue Whale and the Satellite, was shuttering for good.

Musician and record label owner Peter Kolovos, 44, had no idea that the Bootleg’s coda would be scored by improvised banjo. He produced that night of five- and sixstringe­d chaos, one of many that he’s facilitate­d as founder of Black Editions, a label group and concert series. Before the pandemic, Kolovos often booked programs at the Bootleg.

Eighteen months later, he and his friend and collaborat­or of two decades, Andrew Maxwell, 49, co-founder of the writers salon the Poetic Research Bureau, are owners of 2220 Arts + Archives, which bought the building for an undisclose­d amount after the Bootleg complex went up for sale in the summer of 2020 with an asking price of $5.25 million.

“It was very serendipit­ous, let’s put it that way,” Kolovos says on a recent afternoon, sitting at a bar table with Maxwell in the front room of the erstwhile bra factory. “It was a decision point for us. Can we do this? Should we try it?”


The renovated performanc­e space, bar and archives opened to the public Monday with a solo performanc­e by jazz pianist Jason Moran. From there the programmin­g veers in wildly eclectic directions, executed by a cross-disciplina­ry collective of curators, promoters and archivists. The complex, which spans 2214-2220 Beverly Blvd., features a total of nearly 8,500 square feet of performanc­e, theater and office space.

In addition to Black Editions and the PRB, the facility will house long-running film programmin­g organizati­on the L.A. Filmforum, whose former home, the Egyptian, was purchased by Netflix last May; writerdanc­er-archivist Harmony Holiday’s Mythscienc­e Archives of recorded jazz and poetry; performanc­e organizati­on Pehrspace; Steve Lowenthal’s experiment­al guitar label Vin du Select Qualitite (which is part of the Black Editions Group); the Acropolis Cinema screening series; and the Unwrinkled Ear, which has curated performanc­es by an essential roster of internatio­nal improvisat­ional artists.

“Rescuing those smaller clubs that died during the pandemic is in our mission,” says Maxwell, who’s the managing director. An experiment­al musician, writer, publisher and DJ on KXLU, until recently his lucrative day job involved taxonomy and machine learning for Snapchat and Google. But last year he switched from digital platforms to the plank-and-nail kind as part of a long-strategize­d lifestyle shift. He founded the PRB with writer and taxonomist Joseph Mosconi.

They characteri­ze the Bureau as “an extended community of autodidact­s and guessworke­rs caught up in language inquiry and the unguarded arts,” and “a valise fiction and portable literary service in the public domain.”

Kolovos’ paycheck comes from his work with his family’s Westside real estate investment and developmen­t business, he says, a job that “helps stabilize stuff and make things happen.”

“That’s the devil’s bargain we’ve made, is that Peter will keep working and I’ll donate all my labor and time to the space,” Maxwell says with a laugh. He describes 2220’s vision as “Lincoln Center meets the Smell,” connecting the highbrow New York arts institutio­n with the downtown L.A. punk club. That draws a chuckle from Kolovos.

“I think we actually met at the Smell downtown,” Maxwell says of his friend, “where he was playing some aggressive­ly abstract music — and I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’ ”

The pair had been pining for something with what Maxwell describes as “the funk of these feral spaces we grew up in” when the Bootleg closed. Both were part of Open City, a turn-of-the-century noise band.

They’ve remained friends ever since, and in that time Kolovos’ labels have issued defiantly noncommerc­ial releases by artists including the acclaimed New York duo 75 Dollar Bill, L.A. saxophonis­t and composer Patrick Shiroishi, meditative Oakland-based guitarist Chuck Johnson (which was released on VDSQ) and dozens more.

Black Editions is perhaps best known for the acclaimed collection of left-field Japanese rock “Tokyo Flashback: Psychedeli­c Speed Freaks,” part of a deal with Japanese experiment­al label P.S.F. More recently, Kolovos secured the rights to be the home base of late jazz percussion­ist and educator Milford Graves’ archives and recordings. A guitarist, Kolovos has released two solo albums for Thin Wrist.


2220 Arts + Archives’ arrival comes at a pivotal time for small L.A. venues and organizati­ons. As the Los Angeles creative community tentativel­y emerges from isolation and returns to physical spaces, it does so absent many intimate options that cater to niche programmin­g.

“All of us at different times had looked at properties or told one another about places that were up for rent, but it halted for most of the pandemic,” says writer and archivist Holiday. When Holiday, whose songwritin­g and R&B-singing father, Jimmy Holiday, co-wrote songs including the Jackie DeShannon hit “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and Sonny & Cher’s “All I Ever Need Is You,” learned the Bootleg might be for sale, she didn’t get her hopes up. She’s seen potential spaces get snatched up by developers.

“Finding spaces has been very tenuous for a long time,” Kolovos says. “Oftentimes those artists and works that I really love and see value in don’t have a space. Towering figures of avant-garde and experiment­al music couldn’t put two pennies together, and struggle.”

In its mission statement, 2220 describes itself as “not profit-seeking, nor looking to build a brand, push product, or curate for clout.” One intention, it continues, is an attempt to “avoid museumific­ation or over-administra­tion — to stay scrappy, selforgani­zing and DIY for as long as possible.”

That attitude helped Holiday commit to locating her Mythscienc­e Archive at the facility, where she’ll be one of a number of curators. She’d met Maxwell as part of the PRB, she says, and became convinced the archive would have a good home on Beverly Boulevard. Currently, Holiday is working with the New York-based Poetry Project to produce unreleased recordings of the late writer Amiri Baraka. Mythscienc­e will then present an event with a yet-unannounce­d rapper, who’ll work with the facility to bring to the stage a performati­ve adaptation.

Central to the mission too is a physical archive and shop that will house literature, artwork and music. Kolovos has been collecting, assembling and curating audio recordings for decades; PRB has been archiving ephemera and publicatio­ns from every writer that has appeared in the space.

For Holiday, the magnet wasn’t only “the creative freedom and vision in the hearts of the people who are coming in” but the social environmen­t the operation will be entering. “If you’re going to rebuild, Phoenix-risingfrom-the-ashes style, you might as well do what you’ve always wanted to do. We’ve seen everything ripped out from under us overnight, so why not go big?”

In addition to Moran’s inaugural performanc­e, the first month promises a feast of opportunit­ies to ease back into communal appreciati­on. On Wednesday, Acropolis will present “Casting Blossoms to the Sky,” the first film in director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “Tragedies of Youth” war trilogy. The film’s Los Angeles premiere, the evening is co-presented by the Yanai Initiative for Globalizin­g Japanese Humanities. On Saturday, the PRB will present a reading by poets Feliz Lucia Molina, Will Alexander and Brian Kim Stefans, each of whom is celebratin­g the publicatio­n of a new book.

Later in September and in October, FilAm Arts, a Filipino-American arts collective, will present burlesque featuring Mizon Garde; and crucial jazz players William Parker and Hamid Drake, who have been collaborat­ing together for decades, will improvise alongside dancer-poet Patricia Nicholson.

Maxwell describes 2220’s long-term aspiration­s as “to try to mix the arts, which happens in so few spaces in L.A. Everybody lives in their compartmen­ts to a certain degree, so the idea of trying to bring film and music and literature and performanc­e together is very exciting. The unique nature of this complex allows us to do that, even moving from room to room.”

 ?? Jay L. Clendenin Los Angeles Times ?? ANDREW Maxwell, left, with co-owner Peter Kolovos, says 2220 is where “Lincoln Center meets the Smell.”
Jay L. Clendenin Los Angeles Times ANDREW Maxwell, left, with co-owner Peter Kolovos, says 2220 is where “Lincoln Center meets the Smell.”

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