Sean Shoppell, director of the Columbia DIY music venue, Space Hall, was all smiles when he walked into Drip, a coffee shop in Columbia’s Five Points neighborhood. Having just come from an afternoon at the river, his positive demeanor was already making me feel a little better about the news: Tapp’s Art Center will be abruptly leaving their residence on Main St. in the heart of Columbia at the end of November, and thus uprooting Space Hall as well. I’ve already written about Space Hall being the 2nd most important venue in Columbia, behind New Brookland Tavern. With everything up in the air, I was worried we’d be losing a crucial part of South Carolina’s grassroots music scene – but Sean doesn’t feel any of the gloom or doom.
“You just gotta keep on going the way life’s taking you,” Sean says. “You can’t force things.”
So where is life taking the Space Hall of Columbia?
First, a little breakdown of how the venue fits into its parent organization, the Tapp’s Arts Center. The Tapp’s Arts Center is named after the historic building where it is located, which was built in 1938 and was once an iconic and unique department store. The TAC organization rented their space in the Tapp’s Building, and the Tapp’s Art Center opened in 2011 largely thanks to public funding. Tapp’s Arts Center created a Cultural Entrepreneurship Incubator Program, which was started to form community partnerships and create projects like the Space Hall, a concert venue and art space located in the basement of Tapp’s.
Officially opened in early 2018, The Space Hall was home to all-ages concerts, taking place on a donated stage and backdrop, with professional audio engineers, lighting operators, and projectionists that ensured the local bands playing had some of the coolest productions in the state. Music fans like myself have traveled from all over South Carolina (and beyond) to attend shows at the Space Hall, and it has served as a pivotal space for community projects and events like Girls Block. It also housed the only community darkroom available to photographers in the entire state of South Carolina, and even a light room studio available to rent for super cheap.
The Tapp’s Arts Center just found out that they won’t be able to secure enough public funding to rent their space in the Tapp’s Building, and so they have to be out of there by the end of November. As of my writing this, there is no definitive plan for what comes next.
As far as Sean is concerned, any way the wind blows will result in beautiful changes. He’s honored that Space Hall has turned into such a staple of the South Carolina music scene, but notes that there are still more than two months of shows that will be happening in the basement of Tapp’s. According to Sean, every show that is currently booked from now through November 30th will proceed as planned, and you can still hit him up to book any dates that aren’t filled. It might just be a good idea, as these last two months are likely to result in some nostalgic celebrations, and any extra money coming in to Space Hall and Tapp’s Arts Center will help cushion their phase of transition.
As the transition comes, Sean says that he plans to continue working with Caitlin Bright (executive producer and head honcho of Tapp’s Arts Center) for as long as he can. He’s quick to point out that Bright’s love and support is the only reason Space Hall was possible in the first place, and knows that she is going to work to find a direction that will benefit everyone the most. While the immediate concern is finding a new space to host the myriad of programs that once took place in the Tapp’s Building, there are lots of changes that will need to be made in order to adapt.
Basically, if you see Caitlin around, give her a coffee and tell her how great she is.
In terms of the local music events, Sean is hopeful that Columbia’s house show scene will create a couple new spaces that can pick up the slack as December rolls around. He notes that DIY is easier than ever with the powerful communication tools of social media and smartphones, and that he often prefers the genuine feeling of going into an intimate space, because those kinds of places are conducive to creating sincere memories and personal bonds. So, if you’re reading this and thinking about creating a space – GO FOR IT! The opportunity awaits, and you have all of our support.
For everyone else, the best way to soothe this transition is to follow The Space Hall and Tapp’s Arts Center on social media and share everything that’s going on for the next two months. Additionally, if you or anyone you know has potential investors or spaces that might be beneficial to The Space Hall or Tapp’s Arts Center, shoot an email over to [email protected].