From concerts to theatrical plays, from art galleries to a bistro and even co-working spaces and drag queen bingo. Holyoke’s Gateway City Arts has something for everyone. Located on Race Street in a beautiful old industrial building, it has been reinvented into an artistic space boasting many individual venues and rental spaces throughout.
I was able to check in with the two ladies that are behind the scenes coordinating some of this area’s biggest events, Marketing Director Cait Simpson and Events Coordinator Rachel Keizer. Here’s what they had to say.
Valley Show Girl: Can you tell us a little bit about the role of work you two do for Gateway City Arts and how long have you been with the company?
Cait Simpson: Officially, I am the marketing director at GCA. I handle promotions and advertising for the company, but I also do some of the HR work as well as the day-of-show responsibilities. We all work together to build the bigger picture. I have been here since January of 2018, but I had performed here a few times prior to that. It was the treatment I received here as an artist that made me excited to be involved in other ways.
Rachel Keizer: I’m coming up on my two year anniversary with GCA! I am the Event Coordinator here and I handle all logistics for concerts, theater, the Small Works Gallery, other performing art events, and private rentals. I work closely with fantastic concert promoters such as Signature Sounds, Dan Smalls Presents, and Genuine Culture to bring top notch talent to our venue, but I also book things on my own like many of the local acts and theater companies that come through our doors.
VSG: I’ve definitely seen a wide variety of shows recently. What is your involvement with them, and how do those come about?
Cait: Depending on the show, some of my responsibilities are constant and some change. I send out the press release for every show that we have, as well as prep our website and promote the event across socials. Some of the shows are booked through our partners. While I still aid in promotions for those events, it’s the GCA-produced events where I am placing ads and writing up blog interviews and where I have more reign on creative promotion. Rachel does all of the booking, but we split “show lead” responsibilities, meaning we each take turns with running the event the night of.
Rachel: Most of our nationally touring acts are coming to us through DSP Shows and Signature Sounds. We work closely with those two companies to ensure that the artist’s and the customer’s time at GCA is the best experience they could possibly have.
VSG: What has been the most memorable, and/or the craziest event you two have worked on?
Cait: Dream Picnic of last year was definitely both the most memorable and most crazy for me. It was the first time we had ever done something like that, and Rachel and I were involved in almost every aspect of the event. At the end of it, it was extremely fulfilling seeing what a unique space had been created, I look forward to seeing how that grows this year! Winter Festival is similar, it kind of takes over for a month and then when it is happening it’s just extremely exciting to see different parts of the community come together over art and food.
Rachel: The most memorable concert for me is DakhaBrakha, they are a Ukrainian folk/hip-hop group that came through in April. I see a lot of live music, as you can imagine, and it’s been a very long time since an artist has fully captured my attention like that. The craziest event we’ve had here so far was Rubblebucket’s Dream Picnic, where we closed down a large portion of Race Street and had over 10 different artists, vendors, and food trucks. I’ve only been on the outskirts of working for a festival, but this time I was fully immersed in the planning and logistics and it was a lot of hard, but rewarding work. On the day of the event everything came together beautifully and I was even able to enjoy myself a bit!
VSG: GCA has become this Arts & Entertainment mecca in Hampden county, boasting live music, but also galleries, theater, a bistro even, and so much more. Can you tell us more about the details behind these endeavors?
Cait: GCA was created by our bosses, Lori Divine-Hudson and Vitek Kruta; they’re both artists themselves which I think has a lot to do with how artist-friendly this space is. Vitek is from the Czech Republic, so you can experience our Czechtoberfest Grill, not your average BBQ, every Saturday from 1-5 p.m. Later this year we open JUDDS, our new restaurant featuring Czech-American cuisine. With the new restaurant and co-work space we are just about in our final form (for now). If you walk around GCA you will also find Vitek’s art all over the place. The size and labyrinth-like quality of the venue allows the space to lend itself to many different types of creative ventures. I’m always interested to see what each space has been transformed into for a concert or play. I recently came to a bridal shower here, and that was gorgeous as well.
Rachel: We just love art! Vitek and Lori have been immersed in the performance arts for their whole lives. It’s just natural for us to add more and more artistic endeavors and I don’t believe we will ever stop. We are very proud to be one of the up-and-coming art centers in the Valley!
VSG: Grammy-nominated Colombian Roots band, Cimarron are booked straight through GCA. Their show is coming up quick on Wednesday, July 31. Can you tell us a little about them and if there are any more shows booked straight through GCA in the works?
Cait: We are just ecstatic to have their music at GCA. If you haven’t heard Cimarron, they play joropo music from the Plains of the Orinoco River with a global and contemporary sound. We are hoping to see a lot of people dancing with us.
Rachel: We have booked 99 percent of the local talent that comes here, but we’ve also booked some really great national acts as well such as Ayla Brown (Nashville), Deadgrass (Hudson Valley, NY), and Frank Vignola (NY). We’re hoping to expand this list and have some great talent lined up in the fall — including this incredible alternative/post-hardcore/dance core group from Tokyo!
VSG: What attracts you two to this business? And do you have any upcoming events you wanna tease?
Cait: As I started to mention, I was originally attracted to this business because the way I was treated as an artist was unmatched. I feel this building holds so much heart and history, and that magic always seems to happen here. I think our team works hard together to try to make this the best space for entertainment that it can be, and I hope people leave feeling like their experience was unique. As for the future, we have a whole bunch of great things coming up this summer! And Rubblebucket’s Dream Picnic returns on September 21! Come by the Bistro for some food and to check out our space, and visit gatewaycityarts.com to see what else we have going on.
Rachel: I have loved music my whole life! When I was younger I wanted to be a pop star and even went to school for vocal performance, only to quickly learn that I hate being on stage. So I switched to music business my junior year of college and have been in the industry ever since. I love making artists happy and seeing happy customers come in and out of our venue. There are some really fantastic theater performances coming down the pipeline from Ghost Light Theater and there are some insanely incredible indie rock and folk acts coming through this fall… but I can’t give away any names just yet.
Cimarron at Gateway City Arts, Wednesday, July 31, 7:30 p.m., doors at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door and can be purchased at gatewaycityarts.com/cimarron.
Jennifer Levesque writes the twice-monthly column, Valley Show Girl. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out more on her website, www.valleyshowgirl.com.