The Allston Mall
The Allston Mall was the provisional name for a space located on the second floor at 107 Brighton Avenue, Allston, Massachusetts, USA. Owned by Marsha Berman (Linden Realty Associates) from approximately 1960 to 2005, it was home to countless examples of low rent alternative entrepreneurialism and cultural experimentation. It also provided off-and-on illegal housing to a number of marginal types. The building itself is a two-storey, mixed-use, commercial brick building constructed somewhere around 1900. It is still in use today but is no longer owned by Berman.
Some of the better-known enterprises in this second-floor area were the Primal Plunge Bookstore (1987–1995), 88 Room art gallery (1988–1998), Naked City Coffee House, the office of Quimby Magazine (1985–1990), Garage Video (1995-2000) and the broadcast space of Radio Free Allston (1997).
The Primal Plunge Bookstore
The Primal Plunge Bookstore was founded and operated by Michael McInnis in 1987, who later sold it to Steven Svymbersky, founder of Quimby Bookstore in Chicago. The store was primarily an outlet for the then burgeoning genre of “Zines”, self-published and usually photocopied magazines that created an outlet for a variety of D.I.Y. inclinations. Additionally, the Primal Plunge organized events in the huge central hall around which individual stores and offices were arranged. Notable events included an exhibition of paintings by convicted serial killer John Wayne Gacy, screenings of films by Nick Zedd, a performance by punk rocker GG Allin, and a weekly screening of arcane educational films.
88 Room was an alternative visual arts space that concentrated on thematic and conceptually oriented exhibitions. It was founded by Andrew Guthrie, Angela Mark, and Michael Shores in 1988 (hence the name: 88 Room). After one year Mark and Shores dropped out leaving Guthrie to run the space for another nine years. The space was decidedly non-profit, addressing some of the social and cultural issues of the times, most notably the withdrawal of NEA grants from controversial artists in the late 1980s. Gaining a positive reputation among local emerging artists, the gallery was under-reported in the local media. Some notable show were “Pillow Talk”, an exhibition that addressed human sexuality, curated by the collaborative team “Dear Me Suz”: Guthrie, Cheri Eisenberg, and Ron Platt (then an assistant curator at MIT List Visual Arts Center) and “Unknown NY”, a group show curated by Winston C. Robinson that featured a hardly-known-at-the-time Karen Kilimnik. The 88 Room was incorporated as a tax exempt non-profit under the name Local Idea Council, Inc., which occasionally mounted exhibitions at the same location after 88 Room had folded.
The Naked City Coffee House
The Naked City Coffee House grew out of Naked City magazine (which for a time had offices at 107 Brighton Avenue) published by Al Nidle who later founded the Zeitgeist Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Naked City Coffee House was a weekly open mic forum for singer/songwriters and poets.
Quimby Magazine was a monthly magazine organized by a group of local artists and friends headed by Steven Svymbersky. It shared offices with The Primal Plunge space. The magazine included comics, writing, and visual art. Svymbersky later moved to Chicago and used the name of the magazine for his bookstore.
Garage Video was a specialty video store that focused on hard to get B-movies and foreign films. Also, Garage video hosted video nights and live music events locally. In 1995, during the difficult first year of the business, the owner-manager of the shop was an example of an illegal tenant living in the Allston Mall. When business improved, so did his living arrangements and he moved into an apartment.
Radio Free Allston/Allston-Brighton Free Radio
Radio Free Allston was started by Steve Provizer using a 20-watt FM broadcaster bought through a mail order supplier. It was on the air from May to October 1997. Radio Free Allston broadcast from the 88 Room, which at this stage had been only intermittently producing exhibitions. The station was technically illegal, operating without a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license, but Provizer sought to distance himself and Radio Free Allston from the descriptive “Pirate Radio” by providing a community service in the form of news programming, senior citizen shows, minority forums, and interviews with local businesses, politicians, artists, and social activists. In addition, a wide range of music programming included, but was not limited to, Hip-Hop, Latin, and all genres of Rock, Roots, and R&B. Day-to-day operations, fund raising, equipment maintenance, and logistics depended on a core of dedicated volunteers. The station was awarded a certificate of merit by the Boston City Council, but was shut down by the FCC a few days before its first 72-hour broadcast featuring a House, Drum and Bass, Hip-Hop DJing marathon.
Allston-Brighton Free Radio followed in Radio Free Allston's footsteps, a free-form AM radio station that existed off and on in the Mall from 2000 to 2005 and featured a wide array of programming.
- Devine, Miranda: Serial slayer's art exhibition goes on show in Hub gallery, The Boston Herald, February 12, 1989
- Silver, Joanne: Gallery Scene, The Boston Herald, February 17, 1989
- White, Victoria: In Boston, Portrait of Mass Murderer as Artist, The New York Times, February 19, 1989
- McCandlish, James: Mass Murderer Paints Pictures in Prison and Warped Art Collectors Buy His Junk, National Enquirer, March, 1989
- Johnson, Richard: Mass killer has lively art business, New York Post, August 1, 1989
- Batcha, Becky: The Economy Show, The Boston Phoenix, June 3, 1988
- Blowen, Michael: Names and Faces: Sid Limitz, The Boston Globe, December 20, 1991
- Rose, Eliot: October Stupid, Art Dynamo, Spring 1992
- 24 Hours of Video, The Boston Phoenix, February 10, 1995
- Hill, Shawn: Yearly Top Ten List, The Tab, December, 1997
- Hopkins, Randi : Allston beat: The Local Idea Council says goodbye, The Boston Phoenix, May 27 - June 2, 2005
Radio Free Allston:
- North East Radio Watch, August 14, 1997
- Bickelhaupt, Susan: FCC Silences Radio Free Allston, The Boston Globe, October 30, 1997
- Radio Free Allston and Allston-Brighton Free Radio, 2000–05, The Boston Phoenix, April 15–21, 2005