The Untimely Demise of Boulder DIY Venue Goss House

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The Boulder home known as Goss House, which also functions as a music venue, studio and art gallery, is closing down. The house’s residents are being forced to leave, as the landlord elected not to renew their lease this summer. Come July, Goss House will join Astroland and Dead Leaf in Boulder DIY heaven.The final Goss show was held last week and included performances by post-punk bands Male Blonding and American Culture and electronic act Running Niwot, all of whom performed for an enthusiastic, sweaty mass of partiers. DJ Kicks and DJ DreamCrush My Heartmobile supplied a mix of no wave, Italo-Canadian disco and experimental psychedelia to keep folks dancing in between and after the sets. The mood was decidedly more celebratory than you might expect at a funeral, calling to mind a history of successful and wild events put on at the house over the years.

Goss House has been a DIY staple in Boulder — a town generally too expensive and policed to allow for such a space to exist. For nearly a decade, Goss has hosted shows and exhibitions and has served as a stopping point for the artistically inclined. In typical DIY fashion, residents took advantage of a hands-off (for a time) landlord to pursue an artistic and social freedom unavailable to more tightly controlled places. “The first show I threw was a pig roast. We roasted a whole hog underground for nearly 24 hours, and this band Eats Feats played,” recalls tenant Laura Conway.

The ability to pursue that “ritualistic feast preparation” — which took two days of constant attention — is a prime example of what gives DIY spaces their special flavor. Conway concurs: “That firmly was in the spirit of utilizing the freedom of this house. You can’t roast swine underground in most rentals.”

At a place like Goss House, artists save money by combining their living and working spaces, which in turn enables them to stage productions, such as the hog roast, that are motivated less by profit and more by the opportunity to creatively transform their surroundings and throw crazy, weird parties.

Along with housemate Anna Winter, Conway also staged Staycation in December 2014, which consisted of a complete remodel of the house into an art gallery — bedrooms and bathrooms included. The pair solicited and received local, national and international submissions in film, visual and sound art, from artists such as Hannah Schulman, Stephan Herrera and Jenni Lord. The exhibit even attracted the attention of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, which expressed an interest in working with Goss House to curate future shows. According to Conway, “It was the furthest we pushed the mutability of the house. It was essentially a DIY remodel.”

They may have pushed it too far. For Staycation, Conway and Winter remade the attic as well, turning it into a makeshift theater. This attracted the ire of their landlord, who witnessed them cleaning out the attic from a nearby property. He subsequently threatened to sue and evict Conway, the sole leaseholder on the property, heaping a host of additional complaints on her. He “tried to blame the last seven to ten years of decrepitude and untidiness on me...saying that broken doors, windows, murals on ceiling tiles were all my doing,” says Conway — even though she had lived at the house for only two years. A long legal battle ensued, during which Conway was able to supply years’ worth of witnesses who could attest to the sorry state of the house long before her arrival. She ultimately avoided any legal consequences, but her lease is not being renewed this summer, and as part of the court agreement, the tenants were asked to leave a month early. Conway suspects that her landlord was simply looking for an excuse to rid the house of its current tenants so that he can refurbish the run-down spot and charge more for rent.

Despite these trials, Conway, Winter and the rest of the Goss House residents and spectators were in good humor at the final show, proving that people will find a way to party and create no matter what. “Living in the house has helped me learn that I want to be and go crazy — artistically, socially, and in every way,” says Winter. “We have to move out as part of an eviction agreement, but this is not the end of anything creatively; it’s just the end of one kind of shelter. It isn’t the finalization of anything.”  

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