News Column

Curtain falls on The Vintage after 6 years

August 31, 2014

By David Falchek, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Aug. 31--As vintages go, the Vintage had six very good years.

The arts venue that extended creativity and imagination in a tiny downtown Scranton storefront hosted its last party Saturday night, a potluck of sorts with Marc Ciocca's political art on display and alternative music over the speakers.

"An honest home for creative souls," a 6-foot chalk-written mission statement began, now awaiting erasure.

Comedian Russell Austin of Jim Thorpe said the Vintage lived up to that, offering visual arts, poetry, music and more.

"A community needs small performance venues, and it is sad to see a place where you performed and had such a good time, close," Mr. Austin said.

Founder and artistic director Conor O'Brien, 23, said he, Theresa O'Connor, 29, and their board of directors were not forced to close the Vintage.

"Money is always an issue, but this wasn't just about money. With Theresa and I being pulled in different directions, with things that would have needed to be done to do two or three more years, we thought it was time," he said. "We wanted to end on a high note, when we wanted rather than when we were forced."

A disappointed Matt Serniak of Scranton sat behind a counter trying to interest visitors in Mexican meatloaf, his offering for the party. He and friends who met at the Vintage formed an improvisation group called Unorganized Business and used the Vintage for rehearsals and performances.

"If it weren't for the Vintage, we wouldn't have had an outlet. I wouldn't have been part of it at all," he said.

The Vintage provided a range of entertainment for an intelligent, nonconformist, under-21 crowd, a dozen or so who were sitting on the sidewalk outside 326 Spruce St. in olive green and pastel-colored clothes. Tattooed and pierced, some remarked there were "all old people inside."

"I learned how cool literature and creative writing could be because it exposed me to another side," said Jina Guston, 15, of Scranton, who attended open mic readings at the Vintage.

Deanna Palmiter, 17, also of Scranton, said the Vintage brought great bands to the area, providing a fun, alcohol-free venue.

"I heard so much great music here," she said. "If you are under 21 in Scranton, there's nothing to do. I don't know where we are going to go."

Mr. O'Brien, who was in high school when he helped launch the Vintage on Penn Avenue, feels their pain, but is confident another all-ages venue will fill the gap.

"I'm grateful and proud of what we accomplished, and thankful for all the artists and patrons," Mr. O'Brien said.

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