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Thursday, June 26, 2003 02:20 pm

Trading Spaces

When anarchists get angry

Perhaps it was just too good to be true. For months, the little house at 830 South College Street known as "the Space" has been home to a casual collection of worthy causes such as the Heartland Peace Center, the Springfield Green Party, and the Springfield Independent Media Center.

The Space was established by the non-profit Springfield Community Network and a group of concerned individuals, most of whom are active in one or more of the organizations meeting there. The little house has hosted meetings and social functions, including a few garage concerts.

It seemed like an elegant solution. Several of the groups needed new places to hold meetings and fund-raisers, but most were unable to cover the expenses and responsibility of a physical space independently. The house at 830 S. College seemed to solve that problem as well as to open up other opportunities. The brochure put out by organizers last summer envisioned the Space as an "undone artist gallery," an "archive and resource library," an underground theater, recording studio, office space, and coffeeshop "for you and people like you to blossom like the prairie flowers."

Unfortunately, since the doors were open to anyone interested, some ideas about how the Space was to be used eventually became an issue of debate, culminating in part of the original group deciding to leave and begin anew at another location along with a contingent that was loosely characterized by all involved as an "anarchist collective."

Some of the members of this contingent lived in a house at 332 S. State. They began hosting some of the events previously held at 830 S. College, such as the Food not Bombs program, essentially turning their domicile into a "new space." They even called this paper to publish listings for their events, referring to their new home as the Space, which resulted in some confusion.

"I have nothing against what they are trying to do," says Marc Sanson of the Green Party who is running for Alderman in Ward 6. "We just had differences about what the Space was intended to be." Marc is one of the founding members of the original Space. He began to take issue with the fact that at least two people had been invited to live there by the other members. He felt that the usefulness of the Space as a meeting place for supporting organizations was being compromised by the decision to allow residents.

After a relatively successful underground film presentation and several Food Not Bombs potlucks and jam sessions on drums and the curious "bobophone," the "new" Space was approached by a representative of the state's attorney's office on behalf of the city's zoning board. The six residents were informed that they were not zoned for public performances or events and therefore they could not advertise them. Even if they could get zoning authority, they would still be required to install handicapped-accessible entryways, among other things.

The old Space remains the home of its original groups. And the "new" Space? Well, when asked, the residents say the potlucks will continue and that people are welcome to visit as always. Resident Ray Mills reflects on the recent events and offers this advice to would-be spacers: "Don't wait for an organization to get together. If people want to be involved in changing things, they can start in their very own homes, invite people over, and then that will be the space."

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