- Jesse Vance in Venture Compound’s back courtyard. Mural by Church of Holy Colors, Gainesville, FL.
So how did Venture Compound founder Jesse Vance feel when he opened a letter from the IRS only to find that his venue/art space had been approved as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization?
"I nearly shit myself." he told CL in a message. And for good reason, too.
The Venture Compound, located at 2621 Fairfield Ave. S., has been operating for the better part of two years now, and sustainability isn't an easy thing to achieve for a venue focused on noncommercial art and music. Vance, 28, and Venture art director Bradley Kokay have had to borrow money to keep doors open while also working 40-80 hours on paperwork and manual labor on top of regular day jobs.
"The money we make from donations at the door for shows barely even makes a dent in our overhead," Vance wrote, adding that there simply isn't capacity to cover costs at a reasonable price.
"If my shows were $25 per person, it would be a different story," he joked.
The venue's nonprofit status wouldn't be possible without help from St. Pete attorney Jim Grinaker, a longtime supporter, who helped prepare the paperwork while also guiding Vance and Kokay, 35, through the application process. Venture Compound has also received assists from personal and business donors, but Vance is looking to kick fundraising into "full-speed" and apply for city grants now that the 501(c)3-status has been approved. He might be able to work reduced hours at his day job, too, allowing him to further curate the venue's zany, envelope-pushing itinerary.
"I hope to be able to start paying myself a comparable salary to a McDonald's employee," he wrote when queried about his plans moving forward. And let's be honest, no one's going to be getting rich at Venture Compound now that it's a nonprofit, but at least Vance and Kokay have another avenue to run down in their pursuit to make art accessible to everyone while keeping artists in the Bay area.
"Contrary to popular belief, Brad and I haven't been making any money working at VC. Matter of fact, we've been paying more than every penny we have for the right to keep doing the work," Vance wrote. "The possibility of that changing is almost impossible for me to comprehend."
The Venture Compound has a nice slate of events — ranging from art shows, to rock concerts, to film festivals, a free film-making class, and even a re-creation of the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey — coming up, and more info is available on their Facebook page. Read Ray's 2013 profile of Vance and The Venture Compound by clicking here.