Last December, like many local businesses, Gateway City Arts in Holyoke fell victim to the pressures of the pandemic. After nearly 10 years in operation, Gateway City Arts announced it would be closing its doors for good.  

However, this spring, the complex received a new lease on life by entering into a partnership with DSP Shows, which will be taking over the booking and programming for the live music aspect of the business. 

Zydalis Bauer spoke with Co-Directors and Owners Lori Divine and Vitek Kruta, along with John Sanders, Partner and Talent Buyer at DSP Shows, to hear more about their partnership and the value that this venue adds to the region.  


Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Last December, like many local businesses, Gateway City Arts in Holyoke fell victim to the pressures of the pandemic and announced that after nearly 10 years in operation, it would be closing its doors for good.

However, this spring, the complex received a new lease on life by entering into a partnership with DSP shows, which will be taking over the booking and programing for the live music aspect of the business.

I spoke with co-directors and owners Lori Divine and Vitek Krutka, along with John Sanders, partner and talent buyer at DSP Shows, to hear more about their partnership and the value that this venue adds to the region.

Lori Divine, Gateway City Arts: We tried to hold on. We got a first PPP loan. We tried to keep staff. We didn’t want to close, but we also knew that we had to probably around December made sense for us. We just — we just couldn’t keep going.

It was money, it was money. It was the uncertainty, it was anxiety. It was not knowing when this pandemic was going to be over, if ever life would return to normal. So, we just decided we just couldn’t do it anymore.

Zydalis Bauer: And as co-directors and co-owners of Gateway City Arts, I know that it was important for the both of you to not only want to sell the business, but to sell the brand as well.

Why was that so important for you? And was it challenging to find someone to carry on that vision?

Vitek Krutka, Gateway City Arts: It was very important. Gateway City Arts, from the very beginning, became the driving force behind the revitalization of downtown.

And we got sixty thousand responses right like the second day after we announced. And that to us was amazing incentive also to like, “OK, we really need to find somebody now who’s going to continue similar operation so this doesn’t become a warehouse, or it doesn’t become some something else.”

Zydalis Bauer: Yeah, and I wanted to get into that because fast forward five months later, having to decide to close the business and then you got a lifeline with this new partnership with DSP Productions.

How did the partnership form and what is it going to look like?

John Sanders, DSP Shows: Well, so DSP Shows is my company with my partner Dan, and we have been doing shows at Gateway City Arts and in other places in Western Mass for a long time.

And when Vitek and Lori told me that they were going to close, I was disappointed and was trying to figure out what could we do? Would there be a way to figure out a partnership that we could continue to to do this and have myself and our company step up in a bigger way to to take over the operations of the club and keep bringing that kind of shows that we want to bring to Western Mass that really, if it wasn’t there, I don’t think would be would be coming to western Mass.

So, we formed a partnership, a new company that’s going to run the venue and DSP Shows will continue to book concerts in there. You know, everything from reggae and folk and indie rock. And we have a partner who is a friend of mine, Neil Robinson, who is going to help us run the venue as well.

Zydalis Bauer: Now, John, as you mentioned, you’ve done work with Gateway City Arts in the past, as well as other venues in the area, such as the Academy Music in Northampton and Pines Theater.

How important and vital are venues like this for the region?

John Sanders: They’re hugely vital. And there have been so many studies that have shown that venues like this not only bring people to town to see concerts, but they bring people to town to spend money at restaurants and bring foot traffic to stores in downtowns, to hotels. It’s a huge economic stimulus for these communities where these arts centers are.

And I think that Gateway, Lori, and Vitek prove that Holyoke is a place that people want to go. It’s a beautiful spot. There’s a lot to do and it’s an incubator of arts and ideas and bringing people together in a great city.

Zydalis Bauer: Now, in addition to the concerts held at Gateway City Arts, the venue also includes a theater, restaurants, and a rental space for organizations and private parties.

With the remaining COVID-19 restrictions being lifted in the state of Massachusetts, what does the future look like for the other aspects that make up Gateway City Arts?

Vitek Krutka: Yes, we are very excited about continuing to start to program the theater with John running the music. We will be also more focused on smaller acts, which will also include theater, poetry readings, salons, more community oriented events. And private events as well.

And of course, the restaurant is going to continue, but we don’t know yet exactly when it’s going to happen.

Zydalis Bauer: I think it’s safe to say that you all have been on an emotional roller coaster with having to decide to close down in December and now re-forming this partnership to revitalize Gateway City Arts.

What have you all learned during this past year?

John Sanders: We’ve learned how important these live entertainment venues are to communities, and how much people miss them and how watching live music on a computer can only go so far. And the connections that you make with with other humans in the same room sharing experience are just invaluable and not replaceable.

And I miss it. And I know a lot of people miss it and we just are really excited to get back to it.

Lori Divine: And for me, on a more personal note, I feel like what I’ve learned and realized is how important our entire staff was. That it really did feel like family and we are starting up again and not everybody, but some people are very excited to come back.

And it just feels like we’re ready to explode again, you know, and just have fun and be safe, mostly be safe.