Friday, September 22, 2023

Pearl Company Returns for Another Season

Art lovers, rejoice- The Pearl Company is back for the foreseeable future.

Despite announcing an impending sale and eventual closure (with no date ever officially announced), The Pearl Company has recently announced their expectation to be in operation for at least another year. In a statement, the company announced that “it has become apparent that it is a positive asset for buyers to have someone (like Gary) continuing to lease back the building. . .Ergo, Gary is welcome to keep The Pearl going for as long as it takes [to sell].”

This statement is a welcome one, particularly with the recent announcement and impending closure of Artword Artbar, and announcement that This Ain’t Hollywood is up for sale. Affordable rehearsal and performance spaces are already difficult to find, and artists are having to look farther and harder to find venues– in some cases, performing outside of the city in order to achieve their artistic vision. The Pearl Company has long been recognized as a supportive and affordable environment for artists- so their continued operation

Renovated in 2006 from a three-story factory building, The Pearl Company has been responsible for a number of arts initiatives, in addition to fostering and incubating the works of many local artists. Its founders, Gary Santucci and Barbara Milne were recognized by the City of Hamilton for their work through an arts award for Lifetime Achievement in 2008. More recently, the Company renovated their main performance space to remove the adhoc seating of chairs and couches to be replaced with more formal theatre-style seating.

For their many successes, The Pearl Company has had a number of challenges. Although it has a long history as a factory and now operates as a performance facility, The Pearl Company sits in a mixed-use neighbourhood and is zoned as a residential building. As a zoned residential building, The Pearl Company is automatically limited in some of their revenue generating opportunities as well; opening a bar to enhance revenue during a show, for example, would not be possible. Officially rezoning the building is an arduous and complicated task, filled with myriads of paperwork, city meetings, consultations and fees; something that a new owner may have to seriously consider, depending on their future plans for the building. In addition to this challenge, The Pearl Company faced many of the same difficulties as other Hamilton venues in attracting sufficient audience numbers to break even (or better) and fighting the negative perception of their downtown neighbourhood.

The Pearl Company kicks off their new season on September 13 at 8:00pm with Tronío Flamenco; a live music and dance performance that combines Spanish and Cuban influences through the art of Flamenco. Their season continues on September 26 with a singer-songwriter evening, featuring local musician Jeff Giles, Shawna Caspi (currently on a US/Canada tour in support of her fourth album, Forest Fire) and Corrina Keeling (Feist, Tonye, Barenaked Ladies, Neil Young).

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