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News :: Organizing
Zeitgeist Gallery Seeks Support in Zoning Board Hearing
11 Jul 2006
On Thursday, July 13, the Zeitgeist Gallery goes before the Cambridge Zoning Board for a hearing that will determine its eligibility to have performances at 186 Hampshire Street in Inman Square. The gallery moved to 186 Hampshire in March, where it has held art exhibits and performances in a small space in the back of the building. The Zeitgeist is now ready to move into the entire first floor, which would make it the largest space yet for the 12-year old gallery. The Zeitgeist needs community support as it asks the Zoning Board to allow performances to take place at 186 Hampshire Street.

WHEN: Thursday, 13 July, 8:45 pm
WHERE: Senior Center 1st fl, across from Cambridge City Hall at 806 Massachusetts Avenue.
We encourage everyone as well to write a letter of support which can be delivered to the Zoning Board, please write c/o director Alan Nidle at
alanidle (at)

The hearing takes place at 8:45pm at the Senior Center, across from Cambridge City Hall at 806 Massachusetts Avenue.

Regardless of the outcome, the Zeitgeist will hold a reception for its supporters at 186 Hampshire Street after the hearing.

Today, Zoning Specialist Sean O'Grady informed the Zeitgeist that the city is looking into taking away the gallery's status as a “theater.” Two years ago, O'Grady demanded that the gallery cease all operations because its space was not zoned for “entertainment.” After an outcry, O'Grady
relented and allowed performances to take place until a hearing could work out the status of the gallery. When a hundred supporters filled the hearing, the zoning board quickly declared that the storefront was now a “theater,” despite its lack of stage, curtains, box office, etc. Not only was its old space declared a theater, the Zeitgeist as a business was declared to be a theater, too, despite protest by Nidle and others. Today, O'Grady exhumed a favorite canard, that “the gallery has been a nightclub all along.”

At issue is the gallery's refusal to purchase a $500 entertainment license. The gallery has never charged a hard, fixed cover at the door and instead only asks for donations. Repeatedly, the city has said that this is a lie, and repeatedly, it has lost the argument. However, the city seems to
need to harass the gallery because it sets an example that will hurt their revenue stream. Today, O'Grady expressed disapproval at the fact that performances had taken place at 186 Hampshire. Actually, 186 Hampshire has a long history of performance; a previous tenant, New Words Bookstore, held poetry readings and concerts. The Zeitgeist urges other donations-only spaces to resist the $500 demand.

The Zeitgeist knows of only one neighbor who may appear at the hearing to speak against the gallery's bid to have art be more than paintings;
today, O'Grady said there were other opponents. Friends of the Zeitgeist and the Boston-Cambridge art scene are asked to rally Thursday night behind an operation that has hosted thousands of artists. At the reception after the hearing, people can learn about the Zeitgeist's alternate plan: to move
to a nearby space that is both currently empty and zoned for what the city calls theater.
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